While there are some things the New Zealand government does well in supporting people who seek asylum and convention refugees here, there are other things that need to change.
People Who Seek Asylum and Convention Refugee Rights
Education at School
Support for Visa Holders
Asylum Seekers and Convention Refugees get access to the same health system as all New Zealanders. Free care at the hospital, doctors and pharmacy visits with surcharges.
Some doctors offer special free longer visits see here for details.
School aged children of Asylum Seekers and Convention Refugees get access to schooling at their local school. They can get support for English language but do have to find money for class fees and uniforms etc.
If Asylum Seekers and Convention refugees have a visa and they are unable to secure a job, then they have access the social welfare system. There are some things they do not qualify for until the have their residence confirmed.
WHAT NEEDS IMPROVING
Detention in Prison
Many of those people who seek protection at our borders are detained under the Immigration Act and end up at Mt Eden prison. In the last five years there have been 80 people detained in prisons after seeking asylum, each for an average of 166 days. Being put in prison is a terrifying and unsafe place and the UN has asked the NZ government to end the practice. Read more ...
Convention Refugee Rights
Some people who seek protection in New Zealand are not given work rights while their claims are processed and are not eligible for government support. This puts them in a position where they either need to rely on charity to survive or are forced into situations where they are vulnerable to exploitation as undocumented workers. Read more …
Work rights for Asylum Seekers
People who seek protection in New Zealand get little to no support once they are recognised as refugees. Immigration New Zealand only spent $110,000 to help resettle the approximately 250 convention refugees. We need further support that would significantly improve their lives which in turn would benefit all New Zealanders. Read more…
People released from prison to our Hostel
Allowance raised for ex- detainees
12 people in the last 18 months released have been released from Mt Eden and Waikeria Prison to our care at our hostel. Part of the conditions of release is the person who seeks asylum needs to have an approved address to be released to, and our hostel can be that for people who know no one in NZ.
In early 2019 we advocated for Immigration NZ to increase the allowance they grant to people seeking asylum who have previously been detained in prison. These people have no visa so are unable to work to support themselves or access WINZ support. We advocated for the allowance to be increased from $120 a week to $250 a week. Immigration eventually accepted an increase to $225 a week, allowing our residents to pay $100 a week rent and have $125 a week left for living costs while they wait for the outcome of their refugee claim.
Changes to the Definition of a Domestic Student
We have been working with the Policy team at the Ministry of Education and have had success in getting the domestic Student definition changed. It now includes all children of refugees and also those accepted refugees who do not have a permanent residence application in process.
Access to Family Tax Credits for refugees and people who seek asylum
We have been able to secure access to Family Tax Credits (Working for Families) for all our clients who are on an emergency benefit. This means they get the same support as any other family, were as previously they were surviving on hundreds of dollars a week less. We continue to advocate for this access to extend to our clients who are working.