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Cunliffe - National Refugee Resettlement Forum

28 March 2006

Address to the National Refugee Resettlement Forum

Good morning, Tena ra koutou katoa

It is a pleasure to be here today at this forum.

Acknowledge:

Auckland City Mayor, Dick Hubbard, Mr Neill Wright Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Denis Nihil,

International Organisation of Migration refugee participants from Auckland and around New Zealand Service providers/ agencies that support refugee resettlement, Government officials representing a number of agencies that form part of the whole of government support for refugee resettlement.

Introduction

Over the past 15 years, New Zealand has provided nearly 20,000 refugees the chance to start a new life in the relative safety of this country.

It is a record that we can be proud of.

We are one of the few countries in the world that takes in families and individuals fleeing all kinds of war, torture and persecution and offer them safe refuge in New Zealand.

We currently accept 750 mandated refugees as part of our immigration programme.

The Government recognises its value.

More than just simply meeting our international obligations, New Zealand has been involved in international refugee resettlement efforts for more than half a century, making refugees an important part of our community.

It is one of the ways that New Zealand takes a humanitarian stance on the world stage.

We want to provide the best outcomes for refugees that we possibly can. As Minister, I understand the best outcomes are only achieved when we listen to refugees and appreciate what their needs are.

So, today, I'm going to talk to you about what refugees and stakeholders have been telling us about our refugee programme and how we are responding.

To provide context for this I should make clear that the Government has three key objectives for the broader immigration programme: finding the skills we need to grow New Zealand, maintaining the security of our borders and improving settlement outcomes.

To achieve this there are three main pillars of our work programme: the review of the Immigration Act, a fresh look at the New Zealand Immigration Programme and the categories therein, and a range of operational improvements in the department.
Let me turn to the first of the pillars now.

Immigration Act Review I am currently leading a full review of the immigration act.

You will be receiving a brief about the immigration act review so I won't go into too much detail here. Purpose and principles: The review will look at the purpose and principles of immigration legislation, including the possibility of including a purpose statement in the immigration legislation. Entry to New Zealand and obligations: The review will consider the legislative framework for entering New Zealand and obligations on migrants and third parties. Protection: The review will consider which immigration-related international obligations should be set out in immigration legislation and what determination procedures are needed to uphold these obligations. Enforcement: The review will consider what legislative provisions are required to enforce immigration rules, including the powers of immigration officers and detention provisions. Expulsion: The review will consider what legislative provisions there should be for expelling a person that New Zealand does not want here. Review and appeal: The review will consider who should have access to review and appeal and how the appeal bodies should be structured.

The outcomes we are aiming for are to ensure that:

That New Zealand has the skilled labour it needs now and in the future New Zealanders are confident of the security of our border; That migrants and refugees settle well here

Ensuring a safe and secure nation

The processing of African family visas, previously processed in London, is now being processed onshore.

While the normal "teething problems" are still being ironed out – I believe that this is a beneficial change, and important to our goal of keeping a secure border.

New Zealand is a diverse country and we are proud of it.

We welcome people of different ethnic groups and we value the contribution that the nations of the globe can make here.

Greater Auckland can be justly proud of recent events that walk this talk: the success of Pasifika, the Lantern Festival, Divali and last weekend the Waitakere Ethnic Board's race relations day celebrations in Henderson.

How many places around the world do you know where 200,000 people can turn up for a big event with no sign of trouble and no one hurt? We have much to be proud of in our egalitarian traditions of fairness, tolerance and inclusion, and that's a tradition upon which I seek to build.

We also value safety and security and as Minister, I would want to ensure that New Zealand's border is secure. Indeed, the public expects and demands no less.

If we are to prevent immigration once again becoming a political football then the support of the refugee and migrant communities themselves is essential for building a broad public consensus.

There are a range of changes under way to better ensure the security of New Zealand, for example, we have brought back onshore some of the key high-risk immigration decisions, making and building a new centre of excellence at the Immigration Policy Group.

This will provide a nucleus for the new, more intelligent systems we will use to better manage the risks in our global operations.

Having said all that, I appreciate there are some concerns in the refugee communities about processing delays, and I'm mindful of the need for us to strive for the highest standards of service and timeliness.

Some of you have fled from countries that were dangerous places to live. I hope that all new Kiwis will appreciate the life we have here in New Zealand and would wish to preserve it.

Improving Settlement Outcomes

Achieving the best settlement outcomes is another area we are improving.

First, I would like to acknowledge the government and non-government agencies here today that are supporting the settlement of refugees and their families in New Zealand.

To those of you here today, who help refugees both through the challenges of starting a new life here and through the trauma of leaving their homeland– your contribution is both recognised and valued.

Refugees and their families face many challenges when they come here. Firstly, there is the shock of leaving their country of origin – usually under extremely difficult circumstances. Then there is the extra pressure of settling into life in New Zealand – English often being a second language, finding jobs, settling into a new community and trying to access the information that we instinctively know how to obtain.

The Government has funded RMS Refugee Resettlement as the key resettlement agency for refugees - and also ESOL home Tutors, who provide free English tuition for refugees.

However, settlement support is not just the responsibility of one or two agencies.

The key to providing the best settlement outcomes for migrants, refugees and their families is through integrated, community-based support.

Settlement is not just about jobs, though they are essential. It is not just about learning English, though that is necessary. It is not just about having a home to live in or a school for your children or health care when you need it, though all of those are essential.

True settlement is a feeling, a feeling driven in part by the attitude of the host community, of being welcomed, of being accepted as part of the fabric of our society.

So we have established the Settlement Support New Zealand initiative. The Department of Labour is rolling out this new initiative in 18 key areas nationwide.

It will provide specialised settlement information in the local communities where refugees (and migrants) settle. It will also develop a system for members of local refugee (and migrant) communities to work together, alongside central and local government and non-government agencies, on settlement planning at the local level.

This initiative will play an important role in the settlement of refugees in New Zealand.

Conclusion

The aspect of this forum that I am particularly pleased about is the amount of collaboration that has been going on behind the scenes.

We already know that to achieve the best outcomes for refugees, the more agencies that are talking to each other, integrating together and working with each other – the better.

I believe that the Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Labour have together supported refugee participation in this meeting – MSD facilitated meetings in your local areas and the Department funding the participation costs for 12 refugees from key settlement areas.

Further to this support, I am pleased to announce today that the Department of Labour has established a fund to support ongoing refugee community meetings in your local areas. The details are available here today.

I wish you well for the rest of the conference and I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of today.

Kia Ora koutou

ENDS

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