If you are new to New Zealand, it can be hard finding out what health services are available. Language, cultural and access issues can make this even harder. This section outlines some of the services and resources you may find useful.
For a small country, New Zealand has a diverse population with some cities, such as Auckland, having high migrant populations. New Zealand is also one of many countries who offer a new home to refugees and people with high-needs such as medical disability, high-risk women and protection cases as identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Whether you have chosen to come to New Zealand or have come as a refugee, you may face a range of physical, mental and social health challenges.
In this section:
- Health information in multiple languages
- Interpreter services
- Mental health
On this page:
- Who migrates to NZ
- What is a refugee?
- Where do refugees come from?
- Interpreter services
- Links & resources
Who migrates to NZ?
The top five countries with families migrating to NZ are:
The ranking has changed each year, but this list of the top 5 countries has been stable over the last five years. View more statistics on the ENZ website
What is a refugee?
Any person who, owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country."
The refugee experience
As explained in the Refugee Handbook, update 2012, the 'refugee experience’ refers to the physical, psychological and social experiences of refugees as they flee conflict and persecution and seek safety.
"Refugee experiences are diverse. Some refugees, such as those from Southern Sudan, have endured years of warfare. Others, such as the Hazara from Afghanistan, have suffered internal displacement or repression within their own countries for long periods. Still others have been subjected to siege conditions in their home towns and cities, as in Burma, or have lived through the terror of total anarchy, as in Somalia. Many have survived detention, physical violence, rape and perilous journeys to countries of asylum, only to endure a hand-to-mouth existence in dangerous overcrowded camps or urban refugee environments."
- Re-migration experiences may lead to high health needs on arrival.
- Very few refugees have emerged from their experiences without having endured or witnessed some form of physical or psychological trauma.
- Approximately 40 percent of refugees have experienced severe trauma, such as witnessing killings – often of their own family members.
- Long-term physical and psychological suffering are a common feature of the ‘refugee experience’.
After living in NZ for a number of years, additional health problems can arise which are associated with lifestyle changes which can result in adverse health patterns for example uptake of tobacco smoking, increasing obesity, and reduced physical activity.
Refugee groups require tailored and targeted health interventions. In particular, health services which are culturally and linguistically responsive to the refugee groups that they serve will improve access, provide early intervention and reduce avoidable hospitalisations.
How do refugees arrive in New Zealand?
There are three ways in which refugees arrive in New Zealand:
1. Under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mandated quota system (‘quota refugees’)
- The quota for UNHCR-mandated refugees to enter New Zealand is set annually by Cabinet.
- Currently the quota is set at 750 per year.
- Quota refugees may arrive under the following categories:
- women at risk
- On arrival, quota refugees spend a six-week orientation period in the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
- On arrival health screening is provided by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, Refugee Health Service.
2. As refugee family-sponsored migrants under the Refugee Family Support Category – RFSC (‘family reunification’)
- Those entering the country under this category are relatives of refugees already living in New Zealand.
- The objective of the RFSC is to help refugees living in New Zealand to settle by allowing the sponsorship of family members for residence in New Zealand who do not qualify for residence under any other immigration policy.
- The sponsored relatives may be refugees, but this is not a requirement of the policy.
- The application costs and the air travel are generally met by relatives who are themselves often struggling with their own resettlement costs and challenges.
- There are 300 residence places available under the RFSC annually.
3. As spontaneous refugees (‘asylum seekers’)
- Asylum seekers usually seek refugee status on arrival at our borders, or when their temporary visa or permit expires.
- Claims for refugee status are confirmed or rejected by Immigration New Zealand depending on whether their circumstances meet the criteria set out in the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
- Those who are successful are then eligible to apply for permanent residence and later, New Zealand citizenship.
Where do refugees come from?
In the last two decades the largest groups of refugees to New Zealand have come from:
Refugees have also come from:
Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Kuwait, Algeria, China, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Sierra Leone, and Colombia.
Studies have shown the use of professional interpreters is an important safety and cultural factor for refugee health. Most regions now have access to interpreter services. Read more about Interpreter services and how to access interpreter services for your medical visits.
Links & resources
Refugee health NZ Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Refugee Health website Ministry of Health
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Resources (CALD) Waitemata District Health Board
Refugee Collaborative (not updated since 2012) Auckland District Health Board
Patient resources in multiple languages available for number of health topics within Health A-Z eg diabetes, gout and via the Languages section.
Ethnic services Family Services Directory Ministry of Social Development
Nelson Multicultural Council & cultural communities in Nelson
Interpreting NZ non-profit providing interpreting, workplace training and information lines
- Chan W.C., Peters, J. Reeve, M. & Saunders, H. (2009). Descriptive epidemiology of refugee health in New Zealand. Auckland: Auckland Regional Public Health Service. Retrieved 28 October, 2011
- McLeod, A & Reeve, M. (2005). The health status of quota refugees screened by New Zealand’s Auckland Public Health Service between 1995 and 2000. Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 118, (1224).
- Perumal, L (2010). Health needs assessment of Middle Eastern, Latin American and African people living in the Auckland region. Auckland: Auckland District Health Board. Retrieved 28 October, 2011
- WDHB, Asian Health Support Services (2010). CALD, Culture and Cultural Competency. West Auckland: WDHB, Asian Health Support Services. Retrieved 28 October, 2011
- Ministry of Health. 2012. Refugee Health Care: A handbook for health professionals Wellington: Ministry of Health.