Settling highly qualified refugees in provincial towns criticised

The Government increased the number of places they were settling refugees around the country, but this has been criticised as inappropriate for some well qualified refugees who have trouble finding employment in provincial towns.

RNZ:  Refugee group unhappy with new settlement location

The ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum believes Whanganui, Timaru, Blenheim, Masterton, Levin and Christchurch might not have the support network or relevant jobs for the refugees who arrive in New Zealand.

The ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum general manager Lexy Seedhouse said many refugees who come into the country are highly qualified.

“If they’re settled in location where there aren’t highly skilled jobs available for them, then it’s not going to be of benefit to local communities, national nor region economies and it leads to a whole lot of social problems, such as unemployment, underemployment, depression and social isolation,” she said.

That should have been easy to predict.

Ms Seedhouse said while they support the government’s decision to raise the quota to 1500 refugees next year, the forum should have been consulted about where they would be placed.

Consultation would have been a good idea.

She said refugees going to places where there wasn’t the support from organisations like the forum, or from others from their country of origin can have far reaching consequences.

“For example access to interpreters, if someone needs to go to the GP, will there be people with that language capability in those new settlement regions?, we don’t know.”

“Also lots of those areas tend to be predominately white, which could lead to problems with integration, there’s not a lot of ethnic diversity in those areas,” she said.

It’s a bit like some sort of social experiment.

Chair of the forum, Ibrahim Omer who came to New Zealand as a refugee from Eritrea, can’t imagine how he would have settled in the regions, as it was hard enough in Wellington.

“I was surrounded by a lot of support and where there is a lot of employment opportunities, I struggled for years before I settled, there is a language barrier, culture shock, there’s so many things involved, it is tough,” he said.

Mr Omer said employment opportunities are some of the first things new refugees look for when arriving in the country, which will be even harder in the regions.

“We’re talking about small towns where opportunities are very limited,” he said.

Again, quite predictable. Perhaps those in charge of choosing where to settle refugees take into account their qualifications and they chances of finding relevant employment.

Increasing the number of refugees being accepted may have put pressure on officials who have to place them somewhere in the country.