Barriers for refugees in NZ with employment and heathcare

Press Release: 24 September 2018- Christchurch, New Zealand

 Failure to speak English is the main barrier refugees face when looking for employment and accessing healthcare.

 Other barriers to finding employment include discrimination- ethnic and gender- a lack of local work experience and a failure by employers to recognise qualifications gained outside New Zealand.

 These are discussed further in a study carried out by the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRRRC). This study gathered information on the challenges refugees face when seeking employment, the quality of that employment, the state of refugee health and the ability of refugees to access health services.

 The information was elicited from refugees themselves via a questionnaire. “Although the survey was conducted among refugees in Christchurch and its surrounds, the answers can be extrapolated to the rest of New Zealand,” one of the co-researchers, Sumaiya Nasir, general manager of the CRRRC said.

 She also commented: “Forty- seven per cent of the respondents, all of whom were underemployed or unemployed, said that the lack of local work experience is a major barrier to finding employment”.

 Language was also a key challenge for refugees accessing healthcare. There is a lack of interpreter services particularly for specific languages, such as Dari and Amharic, and often there is a need for different interpreters for the same language because of a difference in dialect, the findings show.

 What the research into healthcare also confirmed is that refugees are a vulnerable group who tend to have complex health needs which often become more acute after third-country resettlement

 All participants said the cost of primary healthcare was fundamental, with almost everyone identifying the cost of a GP as extremely important.

 About 17 per cent of participants felt discrimination was the main issue they faced when accessing healthcare services, the findings show.

 When participants were asked if they have ever accessed mental health services, 90 per cent said they had never used them for either themselves or any family members

 The CRRRC makes several recommendations in its report, Nasir says. These are outlined below:

 -There should be greater provision for providing language classes to all refugee-background people regardless of their immigration status.

 -Facilities for culturally responsive childcare and education are needed. Women can then attend English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) classes.

 -Employers need to understand more about refugee-background professionals and, in some cases, recognise overseas qualifications.

-There should be individualised employment programmes to incorporate critical components that enable people from refugee backgrounds to secure meaningful employment

 - Resources need to be shifted from disease focused, and other traditional hospital services, to the primary level and strong health promotion programmes need to be created that emphasise prevention and self-care in a cultural competent way.

- More effort needs to be made to shorten the time to process residency claims. Delaying the waiting time leads to more stress for refugees.

- There needs to be greater access to trained interpreters.

To obtain the full report on the CRRRC survey and/or for more information on the findings please contact:

 Sumaiya Nasir

General manager


Telephone: (03) 377 2538

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


or Lucia Dore

Co-researcher and media consultant

Lucia Dore Consultancy

027 7551170 (from 3 October).

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018