TThe New Lynn shopping center terror attack in western Auckland on Friday last week that left five people in hospital and the perpetrator shot dead underscores how isolation and a lack of belonging can create fertile ground for ideas. extremists take root.
As the public conversation shifts from descriptions of the event to suggestions of what will come next, we must also consider why it became so isolated. While the details of this person continue to be published, the broader context of how people seek asylum and how they are treated deserves consideration.
We have been investigating how refugees find a sense of belonging in their new homes, while staying connected to the cultures from which they come, for more than a decade. Our research, and that of many others, concludes that creating a sense of belonging is critical to achieving positive outcomes in settlements. It could also be said that it is a powerful counterweight to extremist ideologies accessible through social media.
One of the biggest challenges to good settlement experiences is that some refugees receive comprehensive support while others are left with next to nothing. This unequal treatment is based on how refugees get to New Zealand.
One way to get here is through the refugee quota, whereby the government annually establishes up to 1,500 people who are granted refugee status abroad. These people are known as “quota refugees”.
People who apply for refugee status in New Zealand are called asylum seekers because they expect to apply under the 1951 UN Convention to obtain refugee status. If they are successful, they can stay in New Zealand and are later called “convention refugees”.
International law grants them the same rights, but New Zealand’s policies mean that the convention refugees receive far less support than their quota counterparts.
Refugees with quotas receive a five-week orientation at Auckland’s Māngere Resettlement Reception Center and receive support for health, work, housing, education, social assistance and other services across New Zealand. where they are seated. A volunteer training program run by the Red Cross connects Kiwis with newcomers to help them settle down. Much of this support is obtained through the refugee resettlement strategy that was implemented in 2013.
By contrast, convention refugees receive minimal support and are excluded from the refugee resettlement strategy during these critical early years.
Senior officials have been quoted for nearly a decade as saying that one aspiration of the refugee resettlement strategy is to eventually include refugees from the convention. Almost a decade later, these statements sound largely hollow.
Our current policies create a divide between the so-called “deserving” and the “unworthy” refugees and create confusion as to who is eligible for support, which means that some people scurry. There are better ways to support them, and we know it because those ways are already in action with those going through the refugee quota.
New Zealand’s resettlement approach, while not without its flaws, is seen as an example of good practice. The problem today is that although all refugees share a similar need for protection, it only supports some of them.
We find it encouraging that political parties across the spectrum recognize that this terrorist attack represented the actions of one individual and did not reflect a larger group. Yes, this man was of refugee origin and had a traumatic past, but this attack should not be used to label and stigmatize refugees, asylum seekers or other social groups.
We must remember that asylum seekers and refugees are people who are protected under international law and come to New Zealand with urgent protection needs, including support to address past trauma. In no way should we take this current event as an opportunity to forgo the necessary checks and balances that are part of ensuring that we are not returning people to the hands of their persecutors.
Despite the unprecedented global crisis of more than 82 million people forcibly displaced by the conflict, there are many examples of countries building walls, spreading barbed wire along borders, and legislating to hinder attempts by governments. people to cross over and receive recognition.
We must recognize a refugee as a refugee, regardless of the path they have followed to come here. Going forward, ensuring that all refugees are given equal rights and entitlements will lower barriers to integration, somehow move towards protection against hatred, and make our society much more secure and cohesive.
Jay Marlowe is Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies at the University of Auckland. Bernard Sama is a doctoral student at the Center, supervised by Marlowe and Dr. Anna Hood. He came to New Zealand as an asylum seeker, was formally recognized as a convention refugee and is the current Chairman of the Board of the Auckland Refugee Council Incorporated (Asylum Seekers Support Trust).
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism