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Should Aotearoa be doing more for asylum seekers?

14 November, 2023

Interview by Rosetta Stone, adapted by Joel Armstrong

Doctoral Candidate at the University of Auckland, Bernard Sama, says New Zealand has the capacity to increase our refugee quota, but is choosing not to. 

As various humanitarian crises are affecting regions around the globe, there have been calls for Aotearoa to increase its refugee intake. 

Currently, people can seek asylum in Aotearoa through the United Nations High Commissioner. But, they will usually have been residing in a third country after leaving their country of origin before being invited to come to New Zealand as convention refugees. 

Faculty of Education and Social Work Doctoral Candidate at the University of Auckland and recent recipient of the Te Whainga i Te Tika Award for Social Justice for his advocacy work in supporting refugees, Bernard Sama, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that in some cases, refugees are waiting years to be resettled. 

Sama says we should aim to take in displaced people as soon as possible, instead of leaving them to go through complicated and lengthy resettlement processes in a third country.

“They experience various forms of discrimination and other human rights abuses or just lack support during a very long period that affects how they live and carry on their life.”

Another pathway for asylum seekers wanting to come to New Zealand is through family members already in the country. 

People living in precarious conditions can also be sponsored by a community organisation to live in Aotearoa. 

Through these pathways combined, New Zealand lets in around 1500 refugees per year.

But Sama believes that this number is not high enough.

“If we compare the ratio per head in terms of the local population, as well as in terms of the refugees that we have been dealing with, we see that we take very minimal numbers.”

He argues the incoming National-led government will harm the country’s refugee frameworks.

“I went through each manifesto that parties released in terms of how it would work with immigration, refugee communities, and other vulnerable groups in New Zealand. I am really disappointed when I look at the new government that we are about to have.”

“I could not see a clear indication of what they are offering people from refugee backgrounds, or what they might do in that space.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air