The Asylum Seekers Equality Project is fighting for equal treatment of former refugees, so that all people who have sought refuge in New Zealand, no matter how they arrive, have access to the same resources and services.
Until that policy change is achieved, it is crucial that people with convention refugee status know what services are available to them. There are a small number of targeted programmes that currently cater to the needs of asylum seekers/convention refugees, most of which are located in major cities. This page lays out practical ways for convention refugees to seek assistance and services.
People from refugee backgrounds are entitled to the full range of standard primary care services available in New Zealand. Evidence of refugee status must be provided – examples of this proof can include an approval letter from the Refugee Status Branch, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, or a residence or open ended work visa). This means that any convention refugee has the right to go to a hospital or primary health organisation (PHO) and receive care. It should be noted that usual costs may apply, and this right does not extend to specialist care such as dentists, optometrists or mental health specialists generally.
There are two organisations dedicated to providing mental health services for former refugees:
Refugees as Survivors New Zealand (RASNZ):
(Auckland based) This organisation provides support to those from refugee backgrounds who experience mental health related issues. All services are provided free of charge.
Refugee Trauma Recovery (Wellington based):
The Refugee Trauma Recovery service is available to anyone from a refugee background who is experiencing psychological difficulties resulting from trauma. These services are free of charge, as are interpreters that can be provided where necessary.
People with convention refugee status are responsible for their own housing. However, the Asylum Seekers Support Trust (ASST) provides a hostel in Grey Lynn, Auckland, with a limited number of places available for short term accommodation while asylum claims are processed.
To be eligible for a benefit, an individual must be a citizen or permanent resident. Convention refugees are not automatically granted permanent residency, and so are not entitled to the full range of benefits. However, those who hold a temporary entry class visa (such as a work visa) are entitled to the Emergency Benefit.
The Emergency Benefit entitles people to claim money equivalent to job seeker support rates, for up to three months after arrival in New Zealand or until the expiry date of the temporary entry class visa.
Temporary Additional Support is also available in the form of a renewable thirteen week benefit payment designed to alleviate high ‘set up’ costs associated with settlement in New Zealand such as that of purchasing essential household items, accommodation, and health and disability costs.
A Re-Establishment Grant is also available to former asylum seekers whose convention refugee status has been approved, though only if it is applied for within a year of seeking asylum in New Zealand. This one-off grant entitles refugees to $1200 per family, and if there are more than two children in the family, provides an extra $100 per child. This grant covers household essentials, cost of transportation as well as access to English language classes.
Once a claim for asylum has been lodged and an initial immigration interview has been conducted, asylum seekers are usually given a temporary work visa. Such visas are valid for either three, six or twelve months at a time.
Legal and Community Support
Auckland Resettled Community Coalition:
Based in Auckland, the ARCC helps to resettle communities from different cultural backgrounds to thrive within NZ society. Asylum Seekers Support Trust The ASST provides access to information, services and resources to help asylum seekers successfully pursue refugee status and settle into their new communities.
Asylum Seekers Support Trust (ASST)
Based in Auckland, the ASST provides access to information, services and resources to help asylum seekers successfully pursue refugee status and settle into their new communities.
ChangeMakers Refugee Forum:
ChangeMakers Refugee Forum is a Wellington based NGO that represents refugee-background communities and advocates for their participation in New Zealand society. Community Law Community Law centres provide free legal help across New Zealand.
Community Law centers provide free legal help across New Zealand.