Refugee health

New Zealand as part of its international humanitarian obligations and responsibilities, has accepted refugees for resettlement since World War II.

New Zealand accepts an annual quota of 750 refugees and is one of only nine countries worldwide offering a regular quota of places for refugees.

New Zealand is unique in that it reserves its quota placements for the most needy cases such as medically disabled, women-at-risk and protection cases as identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

At Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, several agencies work together to provide a comprehensive orientation programme for all refugees arriving under the quota system. Mangere’s ‘on arrival’ health screening programme provided by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, Refugee Health Service is unique.

Refugee groups in New Zealand and their ethnic communities are growing and diverse, in particular in the Auckland region. Pre-migration experiences 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. The long-term physical and psychological sequelae resulting from this exposure are a common feature of the ‘refugee experience’.

Length of residence in New Zealand is 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. 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.

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