Colombian refugees in New Zealand and their resettlement stories

Master's Thesis, 2018

227 Pages


Table of content




Table of content

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Purpose and Significance of the Research
1.2.1 Main Objective:
1.2.2 Aims or secondary objectives:
1.3 Research Question
1.3.1 Sub-questions
1.4 Definition of Concepts
1.4.1 Refugee
1.4.2 Resettlement
1.4.3 Integration
1.4.4 Resignation
1.4.5 Reconciliation
1.5 Thesis outline

2.1 The Causes that force Colombian people to leave their homes
2.2 Arrival in Ecuador and preparation to travel to New Zealand
2.3 Arrival in New Zealand

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Preparation of refugees for resettlement in New Zealand
3.3 Challenges faced by refugees when resettling in New Zealand
3.3.1 Discrimination
3.3.2 Mental health issues
3.3.3 The lack of English
3.3.4 Unemployment
3.4 The importance of reconciliationduring the integration process
3.5 Resignation: a necessary quality for integrating into New Zealand society
3.6 Conclusion

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Methodology
4.3 Methods of data collection
4.4 Oral history interviews
4.5 Focusgroups
4.6 Diaries/Journals
4.7 Sampling and Recruitment
4.7.1 Additional information about transcriptions and translations
4.8 Procedures of qualitative data analysis
4.8.1 Stage one: Transcribing and sorting data
4.8.2 Stage two: Coding data
4.8.3 Stage three: Integrating information and looking for meaning
4.8.4 Stage four: Interpreting data
4.8.5 Stage five: Drawing conclusions
4.9 Trustworthiness and Credibility
4.9.1 Adoption of appropriate, well-recognised research methods
4.9.2 Triangulation
4.9.3 Tactics to help ensure honesty from informants when contributing data
4.9.4 Examination of previous research findings
4.10 Ethical Considerations

5.1 Introduction
5. 2 The participants, their profiles and stories
5.2.1 Henry
5.2.2 Sara
5.2.3 Rebeca
5.2.4 Magdalena
5.2.5 Alekos
5.2.6 Mateo
5.2.7 Arturo
5.2.8 Teresa
5.2.9 Ramona
5.2.10 Claudia
5.2.11 Marta
5.2.12 Mariana
5.2.13 Laura
5.3 The emergent themes
5.4 Theme 1: Living in Colombia
5.4.1 Sub-theme 1a: Life in Colombia before becoming a victim of the armed conflict
5.4.2 Sub-theme 1b: Living conditions before escaping from Colombia
5.5 Theme 2: Living in Ecuador
5.5.1 Sub-theme 2a: Arriving in Ecuador
5.5.2 Sub-theme 2b: Living conditions in Ecuador
5.5.3 Sub-theme 2c: The asylum process in Ecuador
5.5.4 Sub-theme 2d: The process of re-settling in New Zealand
5.5.5 Sub-theme 2e: Previous preparation to come to New Zealand
5.6 Theme 3: Resettlement in New Zealand
5.6.1 Sub-theme 3a: The first six weeks in New Zealand
5.6.2 Sub-theme 3b: Preparation in the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre
5.6.3 Sub-theme 3c: Settlement into the community
5.6.4 Sub-theme 3d: Relationships with others in the community
5.6.5 Sub-theme 3e: Living conditions in the community
5.7 Theme 4: Integration process into New Zealand society
5.7.1 Sub-theme 4a: The challenges of integration
5.7.2 Sub-theme 4b: Feelings about New Zealand
5.7.3 Sub-theme 4c: Reconciliation and resignation
5.7.4 Sub-theme 4d: Identity
5.7.5 Sub-theme 4e: Resilience
5.8 Theme 5: Appropriate support for refugees
5.8.1 Sub-theme 5a: Support in the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre
5.8.2 Sub-theme 5b: Support by WINZ
5.8.3 Sub-theme 5c: Support by Housing New Zealand Corporation
5.8.4 Sub-theme 5d: Support for employment
5.8.5 Sub-theme 5e: Support for education
5.9 Theme 6: The refugee term
5.9.1 Sub-theme 6a: Wrong use of the refugee term
5.9.2 Sub-theme 6b: Discrimination associated with the refugee term
5.10 Conclusion

6.1 Introduction
6.2 Theme 1: Living in Colombia
6.3 Theme 2: Living in Ecuador
6.4 Theme 3: Resettlement in New Zealand
6.5 Theme 4: Integration process into New Zealand society
6.6 Theme 5: Appropriate support to refugees
6.7 Theme 6: The refugee term
6.8 Conclusion

7.1 Introduction
7.2 Answering the research questions
7.2.1 Sub-question 1:How were Colombian refugees prepared for resettlement in New Zealand?
7.2.2 Sub-question 2:What are the challenges faced by Colombian refugees when resettling in New Zealand?
7.2.3 Sub-question 3: What role does reconciliation play in the process of integration in New Zealand?
7.2.4 Sub-question 4:How do Colombian refugees resign or reconcile themselves to integrate into New Zealand in order to rebuild their lives and survive?
7.2.5 Research Question:What is the experience of Colombian Refugees resettlement in New Zealand?
7.3 Study Limitations
7.4 Recommendation for future research


APPENDIX A: Questions for the oral history interviews

APPENDIX B: Questions for the focus group discussions

APPENDIX C: Advertisement for the Study

APPENDIX D: Original codes


This thesis explores the stories of resettlement and integration of Colombian refugees in New Zealand. Colombian refugees began their resettlement in New Zealand in 2007 referred by the UNHCR and accepted by the government of New Zealand. The lack of academic research focused solely on Colombian refugees in New Zealand was the main motivation to carry out this study. This research aims to explore the challenges that affect the successful integration of Colombian refugees in New Zealand. It was driven by a pragmatic question of what can be done to improve their integration in New Zealand.

The qualitative methodological approach of this study was an ethnographic collection of oral stories. Ethnography and oral history research methodology were the most effective way of documenting the experiences of Colombian refugees in New Zealand because it permitted me to collect and present the stories of the participants in a chronological order. Additional data collection methods included focus group and participants' diaries. This study collected the resettlement stories of 13 former Colombian refugees resettled in New Zealand.

The findings of this research indicated that former Colombian refugees are integrated into New Zealand. However, some of them are better integrated and adapted than others, but all of them feel love and much appreciation for New Zealand. In fact, Colombian refugees consider New Zealand as their second home and also identify themselves as Colombians, Ecuadorians and Kiwis. Nevertheless, they think that New Zealand has several shortcomings in its refugee resettlement programme. The findings of this study also show that Colombian refugees in New Zealand face many challenges that put in risk their successful integration into the country.

This thesis contributes new knowledge about the resettlement of Colombian refugees in New Zealand and suggests ways to improve the resettlement of new refugees in the country. It opens the door for conducting new studies on refugees and immigrants in New Zealand and worldwide.

Key words : Colombian Refugees, resettlement, integration, resettlement challenges, discrimination, resignation, reconciliation, exiles.


First of all, I want to express my gratefulness to the heavenly God who gave me strength and health to carry out this research project.

Secondly, I would like to thank Dr Elena Kolesova, my main supervisor for all her support she gave me during the entire duration of the execution of this research project. Also, for all valuable time, she spent checking my writings and giving me advice on how to improve these writings.

I am also deeply grateful to my second supervisor, Dr Philip Cass, who motivated me to continue with this study and was willing to give me practical suggestions to improve the quality of this research.

Likewise, I would like to thank Associate Professor Dr Evangelia Papoutsaki, who helped me to set up the groundwork for initiating this research project. Also, for transmitting valuable information to me in her research methods class that gave me the necessary tools to start this project.

Thanks also to Dr Jocelyn Williams, who provided me with very valuable suggestions during my master’s studies about how to improve my writing.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Unitec and especially to the Department of Communication Studies for accepting me in the Master of International Communication programme with my academic background in Information Technology. Finally, I thank the 13 participants who volunteered to participate in this project and for receiving me hospitably at their homes to conduct the interviews.


I want to dedicate this thesis (in which I have spent more than 2500 hours of hard work) in memory of all refugees who have lost their lives in an attempt to reach another country such as the three-year-old boy named Aylan Kurdi, who was found dead on a beach in Turkey; after his ship was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean on September 2, 2015.

I would also like to dedicate this research to all internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, refugees and former refugees from all over the world. For me, these people are the most vulnerable and helpless beings in the world.

Finally, I mainly want to dedicate this work to the God of heaven, who gave me health and life to carry out this study. Without the help of God, it would not have been possible to do this work that is why I want to give him the merit. "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (Philippians 4:20).

List of Tables

Table 1. Per Capita Resettlement by Country of Resettlement in

Table 2. Recruited participants in the study

Table 3. Additional information about participants

Table 4. Steps implemented to obtain the ethical approval

Table 5. participants’ introduction and participation in the study

Table 6. Employment statistics

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


1.1 Introduction

This research focuses on Colombian refugees and their resettlement and integration stories in New Zealand. According to New Zealand Immigration (2016), Colombian refugees have been arriving in the country since 2007. By the end of July 2016, New Zealand had 809 Colombian refugees resettled from Ecuador where they were recognised as urban refugees by the Ecuadorian government (Ministry of Health, 2012). An urban refugee is a refugee who lives in an urban area rather than in a refugee camp. It is important to note that in Ecuador there are no refugee camps. Therefore, all refugees in Ecuador are considered as urban refugees. Thousands of Colombians have fled from Colombia to Ecuador because of the armed conflict that the country has faced for almost six decades. Once recognised as refugees in Ecuador, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) makes the recommendation or referral of some refugees to the New Zealand government, for them to be resettled in New Zealand.

This research collected the experiences of 13 Colombian refugees in their process of resettlement and integration in New Zealand. The study used a qualitative methodological approach of an oral history methodology (ethnographic- a collection of oral stories). As data collection methods, I have used oral history interviews, a focus group and participants' personal diaries.

1.2 Purpose and Significance of the Research

This research project explores the challenges that affect the integration of Colombian refugees in New Zealand. It is driven by a pragmatic question of what can be done to improve their integration in New Zealand. The literature research has identified a significant gap in the research about Colombian refugees in New Zealand.

Although there has been some research on Colombian refugees in New Zealand, some information is not accurate. For example, according to the Ministry of Health (2012) “refugees from Colombia have been arriving in New Zealand since 2008” (p. 33). In fact, according to The Refugee and Protection Unit (2017), 29 Colombian refugees arrived in New Zealand between 2007 to 2008; one participant in this study affirms that she arrived in New Zealand in 2007 with other Colombian refugees.

As a former Colombian refugee who arrived in New Zealand from Ecuador in 2008 and my own experience of (re)settling in New Zealand society, I am uniquely positioned to present an insider’s view on the struggles and challenges faced by my compatriots.

1.2.1 Main Objective:

The aims and objective of this research project are:

- To explore the challenges that affect the integration of Colombian refugees in New Zealand.

1.2.2 Aims or secondary objectives:

- To explore in depth, the stories and experiences of Colombian refugees in their process of resettlement and integration in New Zealand.
- To explore what can be done in order to improve the integration of Colombian refugees in New Zealand.
- To contribute to the development of research on Colombian refugees in New Zealand as one of the 30 refugee groups in New Zealand.
- To assist new refugees in New Zealand with integration into the country by producing knowledge that can help refugee organisations and local communities where refugees are settled to better understand their needs.
- To contribute reliable and credible research for academic and refugee organisations.
- Finally, to identify gaps in the knowledge and identify new research areas.

1.3 Research Question

What is the experience of Colombian Refugees resettlement in New Zealand?

1.3.1 Sub-questions

1- How were Colombian refugees prepared for resettlement in New Zealand?
2- What are the challenges faced by Colombian refugees when resettling in New Zealand?
3- What role does reconciliation play in the process of integration in New Zealand?
4- How do Colombian refugees resign or reconcile themselves to integrating into New Zealand society in order to rebuild their lives and survive?

1.4 Definition of Concepts

This study constantly uses the following terms: Refugee, resettlement, integration, resignation and reconciliation, which are defined here.

1.4.1 Refugee

Article I of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, defines the term ‘refugee’ as follows:

A person who, owing to 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 nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. (p. 14)

Likewise, the 1969 OAU (Organisation of African Unity) Convention in Article I (2) declares the next:

The term “refugee” shall also apply to every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his [or her] country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his [or her] place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his [or her] country of origin or nationality. (p.6)

In addition, in Article III (3) of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees says that:

[...] the refugee definition or concept of a refugee to be recommended for use in the region is one which, in addition to containing the elements of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, includes among refugee’s persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression. (p. 6)

A refugee is not an asylum-seeker or an economic migrant (UNHCR, 2016). For example, a migrant chooses which country he/she wants to go to and prepares himself carefully for the trip. Migrants prepare emotionally for the change they will face in the new country and prepare their travel documents. Migrants plan their move. Refugees do not choose to leave their home countries (UNHCR, 2016). They have to flee from their countries in order to save their lives. Refugees do not move to a foreign country following a plan. They do not have time to prepare themselves for a trip and for this reason many of them have no travel documents. Hence, migrants and refugees’ departure conditions are different. Another difference between refugees and migrants is that refugees are specifically defined and protected by international laws (UNHCR, 2016).

When refugees obtain permanent residence in a country, technically they are no longer refugees, especially when they are resettled in a third country like New Zealand (Rebekah, 2013). In this research, I use the term refugees to refer to Colombians from refugee backgrounds. Normally, these people are called former refugees by those who have more knowledge about the refugees’ topic. However, the majority continue to call them refugees, due to either ignorance or discrimination. Research and experience have led me to believe that even when a refugee is granted foreign residence or citizenship, this fact does not put a real end to their refugee status. It could be argued that the refugee status of an adult ends completely only when they return to live permanently in their country of origin, otherwise, they will always be considered a refugee in a foreign land. For instance, as already explained, members of the mainstream society often continue to call them refugees. This is as if the person had a mark or a label that identifies them as refugees during the entire time they live in the foreign country.

1.4.2 Resettlement

Resettlement in a third country means that refugees leave the country that has accepted them as refugees, to become legally established in another country. According to Bävman (2016) “resettlement is the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grants them permanent settlement” (para. 2). Resettlement is not a right of refugees; instead, it is a solution that applies only in specific situations. Even if a person is recognised as a refugee by a country that does not necessarily mean that this person has a case with the required characteristics for resettlement to a third country (ACNUR, 2011).

1.4.3 Integration

Integration occurs when a community or a group of people is willing to receive another person outside the group as part of it. In this way, the person is attached to this group or community and starts becoming part of it (ACNUR, 2002). Integration is a process that is dynamic in two ways (Strang & Ager, 2010). For example, both the hosting community and the resettled refugees must work reciprocally on the integration of newly arrived refugees (Strang & Ager, 2010). This raises questions about who should adapt to whom; if refugees should adapt to their host communities or whether communities should adapt to refugees. The answer to this is that both have to take part in this process of adaptation and develop mutual understanding (Strang & Ager, 2010). The refugee must be willing to adapt to the new country, by learning aspects such as its language and culture. In turn, the host society should be willing to help refugees with their integration process, including areas like preparation for employment and self-sufficiency. This study explores what Colombian refugees have done in order to adapt and be part of their communities.

1.4.4 Resignation

Resignation means accepting with submission to something inescapable (Resignation, 2011). When a refugee is resettled into a third country he/she might experience the symptoms of culture shock such as stress, sadness, loneliness, homesickness, idealising the home culture, irritability, resentment, family conflicts, loss of identity, feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and negative self-image (Foley, 2012). According to Pedersen (1995), there are five stages of culture shock, which are: the honeymoon stage, the disintegration stage, the reintegration stage, the autonomy stage and the interdependence stage (Pedersen, 1995). In the last stage of culture shock, refugees accept their new life in the new country. It could be said that in this way, the refugees resign themselves to rebuilding their lives in the resettlement country.

My own experience as a former Colombian refugee resettled in New Zealand from Ecuador has taught me that resignation and reconciliation are the keys to successful integration. I lived in Ecuador for 14 months as an urban refugee and never adapted and integrated into the Ecuadorian culture. The Ecuadorian and Colombian cultures are similar and share the same Spanish language, but even so, I did not achieve integration in that country; instead, I kept comparing Ecuador with Colombia in a negative way. The attitude I adopted made me realise just the adverse aspects of Ecuador; for that reason, I used to feel a lot of resentment and rage at the bad things that I saw and experienced in Ecuador. I simply felt disappointment in that country. I rejected Ecuadorian culture from the bottom of my heart, which prevented me from integrating. On the other hand, if I had reconciled myself to Ecuadorian culture, I could have accepted Ecuador as my new home and perhaps I would have resigned myself to rebuilding my life in that country. Similarly, when I came to New Zealand I had to wait three years to be reconciled with the new culture and resign myself to rebuilding my life in this country. In some moments I still feel like going back to my country, but having accepted New Zealand as my new home allows me to continue rebuilding my life.

Refugees never choose the country of their relocation. Therefore, once in the country of resettlement, the refugees might feel that they do not like the country to which they have arrived. It is at this point that the refugees must resign themselves to accept the country of resettlement as their new home and be willing to rebuild their lives there. So, even if the refugee thinks that the new country is beautiful, ugly, good or bad to live in, they must resign themselves to live in that country because the refugees have no other alternative and must accept the new country in order to be integrated into the community. I believe that if the refugees are not resigned to accept the new country as their home they might end up returning to their original country one day (ACNUR, 1997).

1.4.5 Reconciliation

Reconciliation is the restoration of harmony and friendship between two or more parties at odds. It is natural that migrants and refugees experience the symptoms of culture shock when living abroad (Pedersen, 1995). The second stage of culture shock is the "rejection stage" (Global perspectives, 2016; Tankersley, 2014; Pedersen, 1995). During this stage, the person feels frustration, sadness and anger due to the differences in cultural understanding and language barriers that can make some simple tasks difficult to perform (Tankersley, 2014). In these circumstances, the person is not able to accept and adapt to the new culture (Global perspectives, 2016; Tankersley, 2014; Pedersen, 1995). It is in such moments that the refugee or migrant could start reconciling with the new culture in order to integrate into the new country (Global perspectives, 2016; Tankersley, 2014; Pedersen, 1995). When a refugee is reconciled with the new culture, he/she starts living in the fourth stage of culture shock which is the acceptance and integration stage (Global perspectives, 2016; Tankersley, 2014; Pedersen, 1995).

1.5 Thesis outline

This thesis is composed of seven chapters which are 1) Overview, 2) Background context, 3) Literature review, 4) Methodology research design and methods, 5) Findings, 6) Analysis and discussion and 7) Conclusion. Below a brief overview of each chapter is given.

Chapter One is the introduction to this research. This chapter presents an overview of the research including the purpose and significance of the study, objectives, research questions, the operational definitions used in this research and an outline of the thesis.

Chapter Two provides some background information by explaining the causes that force Colombian people to leave their homes. This chapter shows that due to the armed conflict that Colombia has faced for nearly 60 years, thousands of Colombians have left the country in search of international protection. This chapter also describes the situation of Colombian refugees in Ecuador and how they are prepared to travel to New Zealand. Chapter two concludes by describing the situation of Colombian refugees once they arrived in New Zealand.

Chapter Three presents a review of the academic literature about the situation and settlements of Colombian refugees in countries such as Ecuador, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the United States of America, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands. This chapter also describes the main challenges faced by refugees in New Zeeland.

Chapter Four describes the research design and the qualitative methodology used in this study. It explains the research approach, data collection methods and ethical considerations in this research.

Chapter Five presents the profile of the participants and their stories. This chapter also describes the findings of the research in six main themes which are 1) Living in Colombia, 2) Living in Ecuador, 3) Resettlement in New Zealand, 4) Integration process into New Zealand society, 5) Appropriate support to refugees 6) The refugee term.

Chapter Six analyses and discusses the finding of the research in the context of the relevant literature. Chapter Seven responds the main research question and its sub-questions. Finally, this chapter includes study limitations and recommendations for future research on the topic of refugees.


2.1 The Causes that force Colombian people to leave their homes

Colombia has had an armed conflict for more than 60 years (Giraldo Forero, 2005; Schussler, 2009; Carreño, 2012; Bermudez, 2013; Gottwald & Rodríguez, 2016; Shedlin, et al., 2016; Gárate, 2014; Guglielmelli, 2011; López-López, et al., 2013; Jaramillo, 2008). The root of the conflict dates back to the 1940s when the only two political parties at that time, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party clashed for political power (Cosoy, 2016). Both parties were born out of the war of independence against the Spanish empire from 1810 to 1819 (Cosoy, 2016). The Liberal Federalist party is influenced by the ideas of the French revolution and the Conservative Party is close to the Catholic Church, with the ideology of a strong and centralist state (Cosoy, 2016). This conflict was sharpened in 1948, with the murder of the popular liberal presidential candidate, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (Cosoy, 2016).

Gaitán’s assassination created an era of extreme violence in Colombia that extended until the late 1950s. During this time of violence, there was a lot of social inequality in the country with the shortage of work opportunities, poor education provision and limited health opportunities for poor people (Cosoy, 2016). The members of the Conservative party controlled political power and represented the wealthy groups (Cosoy, 2016). This situation motivated many poor peasants to rebel against the government (Cosoy, 2016). In the early 1960s, the principal Colombian guerrilla group was formed to fight against the government to protect disadvantaged communities (Jaramillo, Villa, & Sánchez, 2004).

In the 1970s, drug cartels emerged, bringing more violence to Colombia (Korovkin, n.d.). These groups of drug traffickers originated among poor people who wanted to get wealth quickly (Gottwald, 2004). They began by exporting marijuana and later cocaine to the United States of America (Korovkin, n.d). In the 1980s wealthy Colombians, in their attempt to combat guerrilla forces, formed paramilitary groups (Weiss, 2011). These paramilitary groups were funded by landowners and many people from different socioeconomic levels were recruited to join them (Weiss, 2011). The Colombian army fought against drug trafficking and guerrilla groups. In turn, paramilitary and guerrilla groups fought violently between themselves. (Castillo, 2005; Gottwald, 2004; Bermudez, 2013; Gárate, 2014). This conflict resulted in growing poverty, sexual violence, kidnappings, disappearances, torture, mass killings, internal displacement and refugees (Castillo, 2005; Gottwald, 2004; Bermudez, 2013; Gárate, 2014).

As a result of this political and social turmoil, many Colombians have had to flee their country in order to avoid losing their lives in the crossfire between the fighting groups (Gottwald, 2004; Orjuela, 2012). Other Colombians have fled after being threatened by armed groups (Gottwald, 2004; Orjuela, 2012). In addition, thousands of parents fled their homes, worrying that their children would be recruited and forced to participate in the Colombian war (Gottwald, 2004). The lack of protection by the Colombian government is an enormous problem faced by internally displaced persons in Colombia (Carreño A. M., 2012). For this reason, a large number of displaced people live in constant fear; in fact, many of them are persecuted by the participants of the armed conflict in Colombia (Jaramillo, Villa, & Sánchez, 2004). This situation has forced many displaced people to flee from one place to another within the country looking for safety. Even so, there have been cases where their pursuers have killed them while others have been missing (Monroy, 2011; Jaramillo, Villa & Sánchez, 2004; Robles, 2011; Paz In Motion, 2016).

The events already mentioned have raised deep fears among the displaced people who do not feel secure enough to complain to Columbian authorities because they suspect their persecutors have infiltrated these state institutions (Riano Botina, 2012). For example, during the 1990s and early 2000s many government agencies such as the police, the army and the Attorney General’s office were infiltrated by members of paramilitary groups and many Columbians believe that the former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez was a promoter and financier of paramilitary groups (Riano Botina, 2012; Morris, 2011).

There is a danger that if a displaced person denounces these armed groups, they risk being betrayed by these government agencies and could be killed by paramilitary groups for being considered a whistle blower (Riano Botina, 2012; Morris, 2011). Former Colombian Army Captain Adolfo Enrrique Guevara Cantillo claimed that the former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, dictated orders to the national army to murder innocent civilians and then claimed they were guerrillas who were killed in combat (Las2orillas, 2014). Guevera said that he killed several innocent civilians on the orders of General Mario Montoya, who ordered army officers not to take detainees to military bases. In this way, the Colombian army could present positive results before the national government and receive privileges from Uribe (Las2orillas, 2014). Guevara also claimed the Colombian army killed civilians with the help of paramilitary groups (Las2orillas, 2014).

The armed conflict in Colombia has left more than six million displaced people, out a population of 49 million (ACNUR, 2015; Reyes, 2013; Paz in Motion, 2016). Research conducted in Colombia by El Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica de Colombia shows that 218,094 people were killed in the Colombian conflict between 1958-2012 (Reyes, 2013). Most of these victims - 177,307 people - were civilians and the other 40,787 were combatants (Reyes, 2013). Those responsible for these deaths were: the Colombian Army 10.1%; guerrilla groups 16.8%; paramilitary groups 38.4%; unidentified armed groups 27.7%; other groups 7% (Reyes, 2013). The conflict in Colombia left 1754 victims of sexual violence from 1985-2012 (Reyes, 2013). A total of 27,023 Colombians were kidnapped between 1970 and 2010. Of these, guerrilla forces detained 24,482 people and 2541 were abducted by paramilitary groups (Reyes, 2013). In addition, 25,007 Colombians were missing from 1985 to 2012 (Reyes, 2013).

According to ACNUR (2015) by the end of 2015, a total of 6,939,067 Colombians had been displaced from their homes by the armed conflict. A large number of Colombians displaced by violence escaped to neighbouring countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Brasil, Peru, Chile and Ecuador (Gottwald, 2004). Escaping to a foreign country is necessary as a first step for people being recognised as a refugee (Gottwald, 2004). According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees adopted in Geneva by the General Assembly of the United Nations and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the status of refugee, a person must be in a foreign country to be recognised as a refugee (Castillo, 2005). When a Colombian flees from violence within their own country he\she is recognised as an internally displaced person, not as a refugee (Carreño, 2012). For this reason, many Colombians escape to Ecuador as asylum seekers before they can get a refugee status.

2.2 Arrival in Ecuador and preparation to travel to NewZealand

Colombians crossing the Ecuadorian border are still not safe and face new challenges. Ecuador is a small country with its own social and economic problems without the capacity to meet the basic needs of its own countrymen (Carillo, Karen, & Schvaneveldt, 2012), much less the basic needs of foreigners who come as refugees or asylum seekers (Shedlin M., et al., 2016). This situation has sparked conflict between Colombians and Ecuadorians (White, 2011).

Colombians in Ecuador are stigmatised as guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug traffickers, murderers, gangsters, thieves and dangerous people (Shedlin M., et al., 2016). To most Ecuadorians, Colombian men are criminals (Shedlin, et al., 2016; Schussler, 2009; Gottwals, 2004) and Colombian women are regarded as prostitutes and lovers of criminals (Shedlin, et al., 2016). Discrimination against Colombians in that country is so enormous that many employers do not offer jobs to them due to a common belief that Colombians are dishonest and unreliable (Shedlin, et al., 2016). In addition, the vast majority of Colombians find it arduous to get a place to live in Ecuador because many Ecuadorians refuse to rent to Colombian refugees (Ayala, 2004).

In Ecuador, the government grants refugee status to asylum seekers and later, many of them are resettled in third countries (ACNUR, 2015), including New Zealand. The resettlement of Colombian refugees from Ecuador into New Zealand can take between one and two years (ACNUR, 1997; ACNUR, 2011). The Colombian refugees in Ecuador need to be interviewed by the Ecuadorian government first in order to determine if their asylum application meets the requirements of the 1951 Convention which defines the status of refugees (ACNUR, 2010). After the interview the refugees must wait, often for months, to receive a response to their application for refugee status (ACNUR, 2010). There are cases where the Ecuadorian government has not granted refugee status to Colombians (Jaramillo, 2008). In such case, the person has the option to appeal to that decision (Schussler, 2009), or to return back to their country where their lives would be in danger.

Data from UNHCR shows there are more than 400,000 Colombian refugees dispersed around the world (ACNUR, Tendencias globales: Desplazamiento forzado en 2015, 2015), the majority of whom are in Ecuador. It was reported that the number of Colombian refugees and asylum seekers in Ecuador was about 100,000 in 2007 (Jaramillo, 2008). This number could be higher, considering there is a population of more than 500,000 Colombians in Ecuador (Jaramillo, 2008). Most of them have not formally requested refugee status either because they do not know much about the international law regarding refugees and asylum seekers, or fear being deported to Colombia by the immigration police (Jaramillo, 2008). The UNHCR offers three solutions for refugees:

Voluntary repatriation: In this option, the refugee can return to his country in safety and dignity. Local integration: In this second solution, the refugee manages to integrate into the community and get the nationality of the country of asylum. Resettlement: When the two solutions stated above are not possible for a refugee, then the last solution is the resettlement to a third country. (López, 2016, p. 11)

For most Colombian refugees in Ecuador, voluntary repatriation is not a suitable solution because Colombia is still at war and their lives could be in danger if they return to Colombia (Gottwald, 2004). The UNHCR usually does not recommend this option because of the continuing conflict. (Lissardy, 2016).

The second durable solution offered by UNHCR to refugees is integration in the first country of asylum (Long, 2009). However, discrimination, poverty, verbal persecution and hunger faced by Colombian refugees in Ecuador make this second option impractical (Shedlin, et al., 2016) and neither does the Ecuadorian government see this as a possible solution. For this reason, resettlement in a third country is usually the most suitable solution for refugees in Ecuador. More than 30 countries offer resettlement for refugees in their territories, including Australia, Benin, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, United States and Uruguay (Long, 2009). New Zealand has a fixed quota of 750 places, which will be increased to 1000 in 2018 for refugee resettlement. Likewise, the other resettlement countries have a fixed resettlement quota as well. The following table provided by UNHCR (2016) can give us an idea of how many resettled refugees are accepted a year for those countries.

Table 1: Per Capita Resettlement by Country of Resettlement in (UNHCR, 2016, p. 65).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The quotas for resettlement in third countries are limited and depend on the resettlement countries’ criteria (Long, 2009). According to De Lapaillone (2012) “in 1987, the New Zealand government established a formal annual quota for the resettlement of refugees” (p. 6). The recent increase of New Zealand’s quota from 750 to 1000 is a response to the Syrian crisis and will be implemented from 2018 onwards (Kiry, 2016). The UNHCR makes a careful selection of refugees, according to the country’s policies for resettlement (ACNUR, 2002). Colombian refugees have to compete with more than 30 countries to be accepted to New Zealand (New Zealand Immigration, 2016).

It is easier for the UNHCR to recommend a refugee for resettlement to a third country when the person has been recognised as a refugee by the Ecuadorian government (ACNUR, 2011). In this case, if the refugee is eligible for resettlement in a third country, he/she must be interviewed by the UNHCR to determine if the person deserves to be resettled (ACNUR, 2011). Subsequently, the refugee must be interviewed by an immigration official of New Zealand in Ecuador. After these interviews, the refugee has to wait for months to know if his or her case has been favourably accepted for resettlement in New Zealand (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014).

After the pre-selection phase is over, refugees have to undergo medical tests to assess if the person is fit to travel to New Zealand and to find out whether medical treatment is necessary before and after the trip. Once those medical examinations have been completed, refugees are ready to travel to the new country (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014). The New Zealand government covers the travel costs for refugee and provides a travel document and a New Zealand permanent residence visa (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014). This means that the refugees travelling to New Zealand receive New Zealand permanent residence before arrival. For this reason, these people are technically no longer refugees as they arrive in New Zealand as permanent residents (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014). After five years they can apply for New Zealand citizenship and a passport (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014). Although they arrive in New Zealand as permanent residents they are still perceived as refugees by most people in the country (Ministry of Health, 2012).

2.3 Arrival in New Zealand

Once Colombian refugees arrive in New Zealand, they are accommodated for six weeks at a refugee centre in Mangere, Auckland (Ministry of Health, 2012). At this refugee centre, they receive basic English classes and are given information about life in New Zealand (Department of Labour, 2004). As previously described, more than 809 Colombian refugees arrived in the country since 2007 from Ecuador (New Zealand Immigration, 2016). Another 22 refugees from Colombia came to New Zealand through the family reunification process and another 12 Colombians have been recognised in New Zealand as refugees under the 1951 Convention (New Zealand Immigration, 2016). By the end of March 2013, the Colombian population in New Zealand was 1308 people (Statistics NZ, 2013).

Most Colombians are settled in Hamilton and in Wellington. Others are settled in Nelson and in Auckland and many of them identify themselves as Colombian refugees (Dooney, 2016; Spencer, 2016; Ministry of Health, 2012). Interaction between Colombian refugees and Colombian migrants is low.

Once resettled in the community the refugees experience challenges that affect their early integration (Department of Labour, 2004; Ministry of Social Development, 2008, Chile, 2007). These challenges are to learn enough English to be able to communicate and make friends, to learn the customs of the new country, to adapt to the different cultural groups of New Zealand, to adhere to the educational system of the country and to obtain a suitable job (Department of Labour, 2004; Ministry of Social Development, 2008, Chile, 2007). Many refugees do not get jobs due to their limited English. Others have to do additional studies or validate their qualifications before resuming their careers (Ministry of Health, 2012), all of these creates frustrations, unhappiness and fatigue (Ministry of Health, 2012). Another challenge is feeling lonely.

“Despite living in close proximity to other people from the same region, many people may feel socially isolated, or even experience hostility because they belong to a different clan system or family grouping from those around them” (Ministry of Health, 2012, p. 34).

Colombian refugees have had to overcome the issues described in the previous paragraph to achieve successful integration in New Zealand (Department of Labour, 2004; Ministry of Social Development, 2008, Chile, 2007). For some people, it has been very hard to integrate successfully. This has resulted in around 10 Colombian refugees leaving New Zealand and returning to Ecuador.


3.1 Introduction

There have not been many studies about resettlements of Colombian refugees worldwide. Some research has been conducted about Colombian refugees in Ecuador, Canada, United Kingdom and in the United States of America (Jaramillo, 2008; Arsenault, 2010; Osorio & Orjuela, 2009; Bermudez, 2013; Collier, et al., 2003). Sanchez (2016) conducted research on Colombian refugees in New Zealand. Sanchez’s research included five Colombian refugees, three Chilean refugees, and one Salvadorian refugee. Therefore, this study is the first academic research focused solely on Colombian refugees in New Zealand conducted by a Colombian refugee. This literature review uses two types of literature: government reports and research from different Ministries and research published in academic journals and monographs. The literature review will focus on preparation of refugees for resettlement in New Zealand; challenges faced by refugees when resettling in New Zealand and the importance of reconciliation and resignation in the integration process.

3.2Preparation of refugees for resettlement in New Zealand

Research conducted by the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2014) shows that it is important that refugees coming to New Zealand obtain prior knowledge of the country before coming. This information helps refugees to know what they will face in New Zealand once they arrive. Thus, Immigration New Zealand provides general information about the resettlement in New Zealand to the new refugees.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2014) produced a video to help refugees know what to expect once they arrive in the country. The UNHCR usually shows this video to refugees who will travel to New Zealand (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014). Colombian refugees in Ecuador watch this video as preparation for their future life in New Zealand. Refugees learn their rights and responsibilities in New Zealand and how they will be supported once arriving in the country (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2014).

Although the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2014) provides general information regarding New Zealand to refugees coming to the country, this information is very basic, limited and omits valuable information. For instance, it does not describe clearly the biggest challenges that refugees have to face when they arrive in the country, such as lack of English and unemployment. The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2014) does not say that many refugees in the country remain unemployed and that most of them find it difficult to obtain well-paid employment. In addition, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2014) does not say that informal trading is highly restricted in New Zealand and peddlers selling their goods on the streets or on the public transport is virtually unheard of. This information could be valuable for many Colombian refugees because many of them have worked as peddlers during their whole life in Colombia (Forero & Apolinar, 2015).

Research conducted by Portafolio (2008) shows there are more Colombians who have created companies in Ecuador, than Ecuadorian entrepreneurs in Colombia. Although Colombian refugees are discriminated against in Ecuador and many employers refuse to hire them, Colombian refugees are entrepreneurial and create their own companies to survive in Ecuador (Ayala, 2004; Portafolio, 2008). Portafolio (2008) states that in Nueva Loja Ecuador, 509 Colombians registered their companies in order to pay taxes. Likewise, many other Colombians have created small and medium enterprises in Ecuador where they have Ecuadorian and Colombian employees (Portafolio, 2008).

According to the Department of Labour (2004) when Colombian refugees arrive in New Zealand they spend their first six weeks in the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland. In the Mangere centre “refugees receive help to prepare for life in New Zealand and to move into the community. Services offered at the Mangere Centre include English language classes, health screening and mental health support” (Immigration New Zealand, 2017, para. 3). After these initial six weeks, refugees are settled in the community in Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin (New Zealand Red Cross n.d).

The experience of refugees arriving in New Zealand can be compared and contrasted with that of refugees in other countries. For instance, Argentina takes in 50 refugees a year (UNHCR 2011). According to CONARE (2013) when a Colombian refugee is selected to be resettled in Argentina, the refugee receives preparation in the first country of asylum, before travelling to Argentina. Another country, where Colombian refugees are resettled is Brazil. According to the National Committee for the Refugees (2013) (CONARE Brazil), UNHCR (2011) and ACNUR (2011) the government of Brazil has a quota of 58 refugees a year. Before being resettled in Brazil Colombian refugees watch an orientation video regarding life in that country. (CONARE Brazil 2013) Likewise, the UNHCR (2011) affirms that the objective of this video is to provide previous preparation for their resettlement in the country.

The Republic of Chile is another country where Colombian refugees are resettled. According to the government of Chile (2002), the annual refugee quota for resettlement in Chile is established by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Ministry of the Interior in consultation with the UNHCR. The UNHCR (2011) provides basic information to refugees before travelling to Chile. After arriving they take an orientation course about life and culture in the country (The government of Chile, 2002). The resettlement and integration of Colombian refugees in the case of these three countries already mentioned are easier due to the common Spanish language (Argentina and Chile) and cultural proximity.

Canada is one more of the countries where Colombian refugees are resettled. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (2014) and UNHCR (2011) when Colombian refugees (and any other refugees) arrive in Canada they spend a few days in a reception house or a hotel and it is expected that the refugee will find a suitable house to live. In addition, refugees in Canada receive support from the government to learn English, French and to get a job that allows them to integrate quickly in the country (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2014; UNHCR, 2011; ACNUR, 2011).

Hundreds of Colombian refugees have been resettled in the United States of America. According to the Department of State (n.d), Colombian refugees are resettled in the community after their arrival in the country and are encouraged to find employment as soon as possible. The UNHCR (2014) says it is important that refugees have a realistic idea of how their lives will be and what social services they can receive so they do not get false expectations and become disappointed later in the United States of America (ACNUR, 2011). The Department of State provides cultural orientation programmes to all refugee who will travel to the United States. These cultural orientation programmes begin prior to departure (UNHCR, 2014).

Other countries where Colombian refugees have been resettled are Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands and Sweden (The government of Denmark, 2016; Banerjee & Rodríguez, 2008; University of Iceland, 2005; Ministry of Social Affairs, 2007; Kramers & Tan, 2005). The countries previously described have an integration training programme for refugees before their resettlement in the community, like the one performed in New Zealand (Department of Labour, 2004). The New Zealand Red Cross has a refugee support volunteer programme to help people integrate with the community (New Zealand Red Cross, n.d). This programme is available for up to 12 months after their arrival (New Zealand Red Cross, n.d).

3.3Challenges faced by refugees when resettling in New Zealand

There has been extensive research examining the challenges refugees from different countries have faced in their resettlement in New Zealand; many of those studies are from the government and its Ministries (Department of Labour, 2004; Ministry of Social Development, 2008; New Zealand Immigration, 2016; Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2012). Other research describes the challenges faced by refugees and are based on published academic articles, monographs and NGO reports (Chile, 2007; Liev, 2008; Mohamed, 2011; Sanchez, 2016; Yor, 2016; Nash, Wong & Trlin, 2004; Butcher, Spoonley and Trlin, 2006; Change Makers Refugee Forum, 2012; Beaglehole, 1988; Revell, 2012; Treen, 2013; Gee, 2017; Beaglehole, 2013; Hayward, 2011; Hylan, 1997; Pio, 2010; Thomas & McKenzie, 2005; Frost, 2015). Research conducted by the Department of Labour (2004) and the Ministry of Social Development (2008) show that the main challenges faced by new refugees resettled in New Zealand are: lack of English, lack of social network or friends, discrimination, difficulty getting recognition for overseas qualifications, lack of New Zealand work experience and mental health issues. Nevertheless, according to the literature described above, the highest challenge is entering into the labour force market or acquiring suitable employment.

According to Chile (2007), the top 10 legal issues faced by migrants and refugees when arriving in New Zealand are 1) Relationship with government departments and agencies. 2) Family-related issues. 3) Financial management. 4) Relationship with host communities. 5) Employment related issues. 6) Understanding legal issues. 7) Immigration related issues. 8) Consumer-related issues. 9) Criminal justice issues. 10) other issues (p. 80).

The next section will discuss problems caused by discrimination, mental health issues, the lack of English and unemployment, which are four of the main challenges presented in the research by the Department of Labour (2004) and the Ministry of Social Development (2008).

3.3.1 Discrimination

The history of the refugee resettlement in New Zealand started in the 1930s when Jews from Germany and other European countries tried to escape the Nazi regime. According to Beaglehole (1988), in the 1930s about 50,000 Jews applied for asylum in New Zealand, but only 1100 applications were granted. Likewise, Treen (2013) argues that during the Second World War, thousands of Jews were exterminated in Europe because countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand did not accept Jewish refugees in their territories. Therefore, many Jewish refugees would have been saved from the Holocaust if these countries had accepted them in their territories.

Beaglehole (1988) argues that a challenge that Jewish refugees had to face in New Zealand was discrimination. Jewish refugees were considered to be highly skilled professional and business people. So, New Zealand traders felt afraid of Jewish refugees and looked at them as a financial threat (Beaglehole, 1988). Similarly, Treen (2013) argues that the New Zealand team in charge of selecting refugees at that time did not select Jews to be resettled into New Zealand because of anti-semitism. "The head of the selection team explained in 1951 that they had rejected those whose colouring would create too great a contrast with white New Zealanders" (Treen, 2013). Such attitudes were expressed by New Zealanders towards refugees at the early stages of New Zealand interaction with refugees. However, although nowadays New Zealand receives refugees from different races, Butcher, Spoonley and Trlin, 2006, argue that discrimination and social exclusion are challenges experienced by refugees and immigrants in New Zealand.

As previously described, discrimination is a challenge faced by refugees in New Zealand (Ministry of Social Development, 2008; Department of Labour, 2004; Treen, 2013; Beaglehole, 1988; Ajak Yor, 2016; Revell, 2012; Butcher, Spoonley & Trlin, 2006). Research conducted by the Department of Labour (2004) and the Ministry of Social Development (2008) on discrimination against refugees, concluded that refugees in New Zealand experienced discrimination in many aspects of their daily life. According to the study, refugees in New Zealand were discriminated because of their race, religion and clothing (Department of Labour, 2004).

Discrimination against refugees in New Zealand has been manifested in relation to housing, study, employment, parenting and recreation (Department of Labour, 2004). Moreover, some refugees said they were discriminated against by landlords and other people with authority such as police and public servants. (Department of Labour, 2004). Research by the Ministry of Social Development (2008) reveals that many refugees in New Zealand are not hired by employers because they do not have a New Zealand accent. On the one hand, the Ministry of Social Development (2008) recognises that it is very difficult for refugees to get a job in New Zealand without a Kiwi accent while the Ministry or Work and Income (WINZ) creates a lot of stress among the refugees by sending letters pressing them to get a job (Ajak Yor, 2016).

According to Yor (2016), some refugees in New Zealand have the required skills to work, but are not hired because they do not have an English name. Likewise, research conducted by Butcher, Spoonley and Trlin (2006) shows that many refugees and migrants in New Zealand experience discrimination and social exclusion. Revell (2012) argues that in New Zealand a person may be discriminated against because they do not look like New Zealanders of European descendant. In addition, Revell (2012) argues that although her parents and herself were born in New Zealand, she has been discriminated against because she is not white-skinned like New Zealanders of European descendant. Similarly, Yor (2016), presents the story of a refugee who had to quit his cleaning job due to racial discrimination in the workplace. For example, his colleagues constantly called him blacky in a discriminatory manner. He explained to them that he did not like to be called blacky, but his colleagues did not listen to him. This refugee complained to his supervisor and later to the manager, but nobody did anything.

While the research conducted by the Ministry of Social Development (2008), the Department of Labour (2004), Treen (2013), Beaglehole (1988), Yor (2016), Revell (2012), Butcher, Spoonley and Trlin (2006) describe discrimination against refugees, there is no research in New Zealand that reports discrimination specifically against Colombian refugees in the country. However, some Colombian refugees have claimed that they have been discriminated in New Zealand because they are Colombians (Colombianos en Hamilton, n.d). According to Semana (2014) people generally, think that all Colombians are drug addicts. Although Colombia is the main producer and exporter of cocaine in the world, this does not mean that all Colombians use drugs (Elpais, 2016; Semana 2014). This is a stigma faced by Colombian refugees not only in New Zealand but throughout the world (Semana, 2014).

3.3.2 Mental health issues

Mental health issues make another challenge faced by refugees in their resettlement and integration. (Darychuk & Jackson, 2015; Tippens, 2016; Puvimanasinghe et al., 2015; Swaroop & Deloach 2015; Sherwood & Liebling-Kalifani, 2012; Sleijpen et al., 2013; Lenette et al., 2012; Palacio et al., 1999; Lim & Han, 2016; Kent, Davis, & Reich, 2014; Slobodin & de Jong, 2015; Nam et al., 2016; Kalmanowitz & Ho, 2016). Pernice and Brook (1994) and Mitschke et al, (2016) argue that many refugees arrive in New Zealand with a high level of depression and anxiety. The anxiety and depression experienced by refugees are due not only to the difficulties they experienced before coming to New Zealand, but also to the new problems they face in this country after arriving and discovering that integration within the new culture is not easy (The National Centre of Mental Health Research, 2010). Obstacles in the process of integrating refugees in New Zealand make many of them feel frustrated, which, in turn, frustration creates anxiety and depression(The National Centre of Mental Health Research, 2010).

Many refugees have been forced to flee from their home countries; in this journey, they have lost all their belongings (ACNUR, 2011). Some refugees have suffered violence and inhuman treatments such as torture and rape (ACNUR, 2011). According to Orjuela (2012), hundreds of refugees have been forced to observe human massacres. Orjuela (2012) argues that in Colombia, women often become the principal objective of war and that armed groups rape women and children to demonstrate their power and strength. ACNUR (2014) claims that in Colombia many women have been tortured, raped or killed as revenge against rival armed groups and their relatives. All these problems experienced by refugees create psychological trauma.

Refugees who experience trauma develop a range of emotional and physical symptoms which vary from person to person (Moroz, 2005; Mel, 2016). Emotional symptoms relate to the state of shock, disbelief, irritability, denial, ire, feeling guilt and shame, feelings of grief, confusion, anxiety, and isolation. Physical symptoms include headaches, frequent dizziness, insomnia, nightmares, staying on alert, nervousness and fatigue (Mel, 2016). Many refugees also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The most common symptoms of PTSD are frightening thoughts, bad dreams, reliving the trauma over and over (flashbacks), racing heart or sweating (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2016). In order to achieve adaptation and integration, refugees have to overcome these problems (Ssenyonga et al., 2013).

Research on Cambodian refugees and Somalis refugees in New Zealand concluded that many of them were able to overcome the challenge of mental health issues to achieve integration in New Zealand (Live, 2008; Mohamed, 2011). Ho, Au, Bedford and Cooper (2003) argued that numerous Indo-Chinese refugees experienced serious torture and trauma before their resettlement in New Zealand. These traumatic experiences can continue to affect the refugees' mental health in their integration process along with problems caused by the language barrier, unemployment, isolation and culture shock. Ater (1998) argues that some refugees continue experiencing depression and post-traumatic stress disorder even after two, three and five years of their resettlement in the new country.

3.3.3 The lack of English

Lack of English is a significant challenge faced by most refugees when they arrive in New Zealand (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2012). Speaking English correctly is the key to the successful integration of a refugee in New Zealand. With a good command of English, a person could have access to work, education and make friends. "Not being able to speak the host language is not only a barrier to economic integration but also to social interaction and full participation in New Zealand society" (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, 2012, p. vii). Many resettled refugees in New Zealand claim that their major challenge has been the lack of English (Change Makers Refugee Forum, 2012; Gee, 2017).

Language problems occur in other countries where Colombian refugees have settled. Bermudez (2013) conducted qualitative fieldwork research in London about the experiences of Colombian refugees in that city. The study concluded that Colombian refugees struggled to learn English. As a result, their socio-economic integration in London had been difficult and many Colombian refugees had not achieved a successful integration there (Bermudez, 2013).

According to Sanchez (2016), the first Latin American refugees arrived in New Zealand between the 1970s and 1980s; the first people to arrive were the Chileans, followed by the Salvadorians, and the latest were the Colombian refugees from 2007. According to the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (2005), 374 Chilean refugees were resettled in New Zealand from 1974 to 1981. The NGO Auckland Latin American Community (ALAC, n.d) states that Salvadorian refugees were resettled in New Zealand in 1989 from Mexico. Sanchez (2016) shows that the highest challenge faced by the Latin American refugees in New Zealand has been language barriers. Likewise, Nash, Wong and Trlin (2004), showed that cultural differences and language barriers were significant issues affecting the speed of integration for Chinese refugees and migrants into New Zealand society.

According to Ho, Au, Bedford and Cooper (2003), lack of English among Asian refugees and immigrants created extra barriers that led to inadequate awareness and knowledge about New Zealand’s health care system and consequently, may prevent these people from attending health services. The lack of English could make a refugee feel overwhelmed in New Zealand because they did not understand the various letters they received from Work and Income (Ajak Yor, 2016).

The Department of Internal Affairs (2013) argues that, although the lack of English is a barrier, this should motivate these people to learn English to help to integrate into New Zealand society. In order to achieve English proficiency, the Department of Internal Affairs (2013) suggests that refugees should study English formally, try to communicate in English with the native speakers, practice speaking English at home and engaging with English language media. In addition, the Department of Internal Affairs (2013) says it is important to speak English with co-workers at the workplace. However, it is very difficult for many refugees to get jobs if they do not know English which leads to another major obstacle that many refugees have to face.

3.3.4 Unemployment

Unemployment is another major challenge faced by many resettled refugees not only in New Zealand, but in most of other countries (Department of Labour, 2004; Frost, 2015; Pahud, 2008; Feeney, 2000; Tomlinson & Egan, 2002; Phillimore & Goodson, 2006; Ayak Yor, 2016; Lyon, Sepulveda & Syrett, 2007; Crea, Loughry, O’Halloran, & Flannery, 2016; Ministry of Social Development, 2008). According to Lyon, Sepulveda and Syrett (2007) “refugees face multiple constraints with regard to integrating into the society in which they have to live and work” (p. 363).

Sepulveda and Syrett (2007), Feeney (2000) argue that the 10 most common barriers preventing refugees from gaining employment in the UK are: 1) Lack of adequate spoken and written English. 2) Lack of work experience gained in the United Kingdom. 3) Non-recognition of qualifications obtained overseas. 4) Lack of information about employment and training services (including job centres). 5) Lack of information about refugee support networks and organisations. 6) Lack of knowledge about job search culture and the labour market. 7) Cultural barriers to effective job seeking e.g. suspicion of application forms. 8) Employers’ lack of understanding of immigration status. 9) Racial discrimination by employers. 10) Lack of childcare provision (Feeney, 2000, p. 343, 344).

Feeney (2000) argues that non-recognition of qualifications obtained overseas is a barrier preventing refugees to get employment. Phillimore and Goodson (2006) argue that "whilst newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees (ASRs) have both skills and qualifications, they are currently experiencing high levels of unemployment and those who are employed are working in low-skilled jobs with earnings far below the average" (p. 1,715).

Tomlinson and Egan (2002) state that: "although many UK-based refugees have professional qualifications and experience, they experience high unemployment" (p. 1,019). Thus, Phillimore and Goodson (2006) show that asylum seekers and refugees have to experience social exclusion and this prevents them to be hired by an employer. It is evident that for refugees living in the United Kingdom it is difficult to find a job. As previously described, refugees have to face different issues and challenges to achieve integration in the community, but it seems that the most difficult matter for them is to obtain employment (Tomlinson & Egan, 2002).

According to Pahud (2008) in New Zealand, most refugees, including Colombians, have to wait for many years to find a suitable employment. A former refugee said: “Refugees in New Zealand are desperate to work, but struggle to find opportunities” (Frost 2015, para. 15). Talking about newly resettled refugees in the country the former refugee added: "Some of them, when they arrive here, they say, 'Oh New Zealand, it's just like heaven'. But once they are settled in the community, they think, 'Oh, New Zealand's like hell.'" (Frost, 2015, para. 16). Frost (2015) argues that lack of work experience in New Zealand is an obstacle that makes it difficult for refugees to get a job. Many refugees are not accepted by some companies due to the lack of local experience. Concerning this, a refugee said that if New Zealand companies did not hire them, then refugees may never gain the work experience that is required by the employers (Frost, 2015). In other words, employers should give refugees the opportunity to obtain work experience; otherwise, they might never be able to find a job in New Zealand (Frost, 2015).


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Colombian refugees in New Zealand and their resettlement stories
Master of International Communication
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Authors comment: First class honour degree.
colombian, zealand
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Alfredo Lopez (Author), 2018, Colombian refugees in New Zealand and their resettlement stories, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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