New Zealand Refugee Quota Programme

New Zealand is one of around 37 countries that take part in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regular refugee resettlement programme.

New Zealand’s annual Refugee Quota increased to 1,500 places from July 2020. The quota will not be met in 2021/2022 due to the global impact of COVID-19.

750–1,000 individuals will be resettled in New Zealand under the Refugee Quota Programme in 2021/2022. The programme was due to resettle 1,500 individuals during 2021/2022, but due to COVID-19 this number will not be reached.

Since World War II New Zealand has resettled over 35,000 refugees. The Government established a formal annual quota for the resettlement of refugees in 1987. The Refugee Quota Programme is a unit within the Refugee and Migrant Services Branch (RMS), a branch of Immigration New Zealand (INZ), tasked with operating the programme. INZ in turn sits within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The Refugee Quota Programme is decided by the New Zealand Government in three-year cycles. The composition of the refugee quota is agreed to annually by the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Refugees considered for resettlement under the programme (except certain applicants who are nuclear or dependent family members of the principal) must be recognised as mandated refugees and referred to New Zealand by UNHCR according to prescribed resettlement guidelines. When INZ processes and decides these cases the following factors are considered: INZ policy, credibility, settlement, security, immigration risk, and health.

Refugees who arrive in New Zealand under the Refugee Quota Programme are granted Permanent Residence status in New Zealand. They spend their first two weeks in New Zealand in managed isolation. They then transfer to Te Āhuru Mōwai o Aotearoa (the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre). The Centre is managed by INZ, which works in partnership with other government agencies and non-government organisations (NGO) to run the five-week reception programme. The reception programme prepares refugees for their new lives in New Zealand.

Prior to arrival in New Zealand refugees are provided with information on working and living in New Zealand and an assessment is completed for each refugee to identify needs and services required once refugees arrive at the Centre. Settlement health assessments are also completed outside of New Zealand before arrival and any followed up by the medical team at the Centre. Key focus areas for the reception programme are:

  • Health and mental health assessments, initial treatment and health promotion, and
  • Settlement planning, including orientation to working and living in New Zealand and an employment assessment for working age refugees, and
  • Education, including English language. Refugee children are also prepared for their introduction into the New Zealand classroom and national curriculum.

After completing the reception programme, quota refugees are settled throughout New Zealand in: the Auckland region, Waikato, Manawatu, the Wellington region, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. In June 2020 new resettlement locations Blenheim and Timaru received their first families of refugees. Ashburton, Levin and Masterton are also preparing to resettle refugees. Suitable housing is located for refugees prior to completion of the reception programme – either public housing or private rentals.

In the community, quota refugees are provided settlement support for up to 12 months including a community orientation programme that complements the reception programme and support to link to services they require to support their settlement in communities.