Sudanese refugee lived experiences: impact on their resettlement outcomes in New Zealand
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Only twenty or fewer countries in the world, including NZ, provide resettlement opportunities for United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)-mandated refugees. Guided by the UNHCR case-referred policy, 250 Sudanese refugees have come to be resettled in New Zealand; mainly from the Kakuma Refugee Camp (KRC) in Kenya. Yet not very much is known about Sudanese refugees’ experiences in the KRC and how they have impacted on resettlement outcomes in New Zealand. This study used a qualitative methodology to document the impact of KRC-lived experiences of 20 Sudanese refugees on their resettlement outcomes in New Zealand. The study explored four stages of participants’ experiences: (1) pre-conflict experiences in South Sudan; (2) their journey to the refugee camp; (3) experiences in the KRC and (4) impact of their experiences on their resettlement in New Zealand. The picture that emerges is that the refugee camp-lived experience is under-studied and there is a need to understand it in order to develop informed specialist services. The findings suggest pre-conflict life was good. However, throughout their journey to and years of stay in the KRC, participants faced severe food shortages, water scarcity, concerns for personal safety and poor health conditions. In New Zealand they faced cultural and climate shock, difficulties in learning English, lack of employment struggles, placement in insensitive neighbourhoods, inability to bring in family members, mental health issues and suicide, and an advanced patient-led secular health system; all of which were a challenge for refugees. Recommendations from this study include: conducting a social and mental health audit in the refugee communities; prioritising family reunification over the UNHCR quota; formulating pathways for skill development and careers; providing specialist budgetary services to help refugees avoid loan scheme traps; and discussing the pros and cons of resettlement location with refugees before their decision to resettle. In addition, the Ministry of Education needs to support refugee students to focus on academic progression as well as on the social integration in the school system, by seeking refugee community input into schooling of their children in New Zealand schools.