Latin American Refugees in Aotearoa New Zealand: A Chronology of Forced Migration and Analysis of Resettlement Experiences
Sanchez, Vanessa Carolina
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This research seeks to contribute to the study of forced migration and resettlement programmes through the analysis of experiences of Latin American people who were granted refugee status in New Zealand from 1973 until the present. This study aims to analyse the reasons that forced people from Latin America to flee their countries and become refugees in New Zealand and how such “push” factors have varied over time. In particular, I will consider differences in their country of origin, socio-economic backgrounds, and access to education by exploring the political context of specific Latin American countries during their most significant periods of migration and displacement. Most of the Latin American refugees who arrived in New Zealand during the 1970s and 1980s had fled military dictatorships. More recent arrivals have been displaced from their country of origin as the result of conflicts surrounding narco-production and trafficking, civil wars, repression against indigenous and peasant populations, and the uprising of armed movements. This has also seen a shift from receiving refugees from Southern Cone countries such as Chile, to countries further north, especially Colombia. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with two groups of participants between February and June 2016 in five cities of New Zealand with high concentration of former refugees from Chile and Colombia. Group one is comprised of nine former refugees from Latin American countries who were accepted in New Zealand from 1973 until 2015 under the quota refugee category or as asylum seekers. Group two comprises four case and cross-cultural workers providing services for resettlement agencies with experience supporting former refugees from Latin America, whose opinions were used to support the discussion and findings of this research. It is expected that this research will help to develop more accurate policies to support former refugees from Latin American countries, understanding their previous experiences, refugee journey, cultural aspects, and the differences among countries within the Latin American region. It is also expected that this study will assist the wider community to confront the stereotypes associated with refugees in general, but particularly with Latin Americans. This research has the potential to raise awareness of Latin American people living in New Zealand who have fled wars and conflicts and help to spread information about the reasons that forced them to become refugees. Therefore, this will increase the support and understanding towards them. The significance of this research is its potential to influence policy makers and workers in the fields of refugee resettlement and counselling to improve services while considering specific cultural aspects of their Latin American clients. Therefore, this study offers recommendations for improving refugee policies and services, that have been backed up by professionals with vast experience on refugee issues.