People from war-torn countries all bring hope


People leaving war-torn countries, like Ukraine, for a new life in New Zealand all bring one thing with them – hope, an immigration industry veteran says.

New Zealand’s history of helping out people amid violent conflicts include Polish refugees in the 1940s, Vietnamese and Cambodian people in the 1970s and 1980s, and people from Somalia in the 1990s and 2000s.

David Cooper of immigration firm Malcolm Pacific has spent 40 years helping countless numbers of people come here to restart their lives, many from war-torn countries.

”There were the Vietnamese in the 1980s, the Somalis in the 1990s and the 2000s. They all have one thing in common, and that is hope. Hope of a new future, hope that they and their loved ones will be safe, hope that they can go on and have a better life than the one they are leaving behind.’’

This week the Government announced it would offer visas to the parents and wider family of New Zealand Ukrainians, in an effort to help as many as 4000 people to escape the war raging in their homeland.

“They’re running from a war-torn country. They’re coming with a bag of their belongings. Their apartment has been destroyed and in many cases they have had to leave family members behind, not knowing if they are safe. It’s incredibly frightening because the life they once knew doesn’t exist anymore and the future is unknown.’”

But the Ukrainians would face some different challenges to the migrants who came here before them, and the Government needed to think about what additional support they would need, he said.

“They’ll be going to live with their families straight away instead of going to the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre. Refugees who spend time there get health checks and learn about New Zealand before they become part of our communities. Many refugees and survivors of war suffer from issues such as PTSD, so we need to look at what the Government can do for them with the services that are already in place.

Their arrival could also place additional stress on their Ukrainian New Zealand families.

“There are a number of things Kiwis can do to help to take the stress off those families, and it can be as simple as cooking some meals, lending them a car, and including them as part of their communities. New Zealanders do a very good job of supporting refugees.’’

However, Cooper was critical of the Government’s decision to only allow the Ukrainians, who were not considered to be refugees, a two-year-working visa, and no student visas. That would mean a 19-year-old coming here would have no pathway to university or study unless they become a fee-paying international student, he said.

“The other thing that is a problem is that the working visa doesn’t give them a pathway to residence, which means they can only stay here two years, so in two years’ time that gives them something else to be anxious about.

“We have no idea whether the war will be over then, or whether these people will have anything to go back to, if they want to.’’ Continue reading

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News category: Analysis and Comment, Palmerston.

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