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Welcoming former refugees

Since 2020, Ashburton has welcomed the resettlement of former refugee families as part of the NZ Government’s refugee Quota programme.  As a result, we have a growing Hazara Afghan community that adds to the rich ethnic diversity of our district. The Ashburton District Council supports the lead resettlement agency Safer Mid Canterbury and other agencies that support our new families.

You can find out more about the refugee settlement program in Ashburton by contacting the Refugee Settlement Support Service located at Safer Mid Canterbury

If you would like to volunteer or assist the former refugee families in some way, please contact: Wendy Hewitt 0272447127 or email

If you would like to know more about the NZ government’s refugee settlement strategy, you can find it on the New Zealand Immigration website Immigration New Zealand website

Refugees are ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. They have experienced war, persecution, discrimination, racism and oppression, and have been forced to flee their homes for nothing more than their ethnicity, religion or beliefs.

Worldwide, there are now over 65 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Under the refugee quota, New Zealand accepts refugees from all over the world. Many arrive in New Zealand with few to no possessions and have left behind family members, friends, homes, schools and jobs.

Refugee status is granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). To receive this status, people must have left their country of origin and be able to prove it is not safe for them to return home. With their lives disrupted by conflict or persecution, refugees simply seek a safe environment in which they can resettle and freely engage in society.

New Zealand is one of a small number of countries that accept quota refugees referred by the United Nations. New Zealand accepts around 1500 refugees per year.

The UNHCR decides which refugees are in the greatest need of resettlement and asks resettlement countries to consider accepting them. The New Zealand Government then makes the final decision about who will be included in the New Zealand quota and ensures they pass rigorous security screening.

All quota refugees are given permanent resident status upon entering New Zealand. They are no longer refugees and we refer to them as former refugees or people from a refugee background. With permanent residence status, former refugees are eligible for a range of benefits and supplementary allowances on arrival. They enjoy the same rights as any other New Zealand permanent resident in the areas of education, health, employment and social welfare.