Refugee communities in New Zealand

The term 'Refugee' refers to any person who by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or, by reason of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country. - United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Refugees given permanent residence status on arrival are commonly referred to as ‘former refugees’ by health providers in New Zealand.

Refugee communities in New Zealand include people with origins from Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, African and European countries. These countries have vast differences in cultures, traditions, languages and religions.

Over the last eleven years, between 2011-12 and 2022-23, quota refugees and people arriving through the ‘Refugee Family Support’ have come mainly from the following countries:

From Asia

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Laos
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Vietnam

From the Middle East

  • Egypt
  • Iran 
  • Iraq
  • Palestine
  • Syria
  • Turkey

From Africa

  • Burundi
  • Congo
  • Democratic Republic (D.R.) of Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Rwanda
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Zimbabwe

From South America

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador

From Europe

  • Kosova
  • Ukraine (NB: Ukrainian refugees have also arrived under a special visa holder initiative in 2022)

[Source: The Refugee and Protection Statistics Pack]

The following are the categories of refugees resettled in New Zealand:

  • Quota refugees
  • Refugee Family Support Category (RFSC)
  • Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship Category (CORS)
  • Convention refugees (Asylum seekers)
  • Refugees with medical conditions or disabilities

About these categories

Other information on the Immigration New Zealand website include:

Refugees, asylum seekers and their families, which provides:

  • Experiences of the daily life of refugees in New Zealand
  • Information for refugees settling in New Zealand
  • Information for asylum seekers
  • Refugee and protection umit
  • Settlement strategies