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 contributes to international humanitarian efforts by helping protect people who are not able to live safely to their home country.

Our government reviews the Refugee Quota Programme every 3 years to ensure it aligns with global resettlement needs. The composition of the refugee quota is agreed to annually by the Ministers of Immigration and Foreign Affairs.

2022/23 – 2024/25 Refugee Quota Programme

New Zealand will continue to accept 1,500 refugees a year under the Refugee Quota Programme from 2022/23 to 2024/25.

The proportion of places allocated to the Middle East and Africa international allocations has increased from 15% to 20% respectively, along with the number of emergency and urgent resettlement places (up from 35 to 100 people annually).

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, New Zealand set aside a number of places specifically for Afghan refugees to be resettled from 2023/24. The Government has decided to bring this forward a year to match referral capacity and support well managed settlement across communities in New Zealand. The number of places specifically allocated in 2022/23 for Afghan refugees is 200.

Each year, the Ministers of Immigration and Foreign Affairs allocate 200 places for refugees from large-scale international crisis situations. In 2022/23, New Zealand will resettle 200 Syrian refugees (including Kurdish minorities) located in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon through this sub-category.

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.

When refugees arrive in New Zealand

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).

Refugees who arrive in New Zealand under the Refugee Quota Programme are granted Permanent Residence status in New Zealand. They spend their first 2 weeks in New Zealand in managed isolation. They then transfer to Te Āhuru Mōwai o Aotearoa. 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.