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Asylum-seekers set up united voice

Mar 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Latest News, News

adammain2REFUGEES are overcoming the bitter divisions from their homelands and creating a united voice for asylum-seekers in New Zealand.

Reconciling the differences between people who have been at war with each other was the biggest problem in setting up the National Refugee Network.

Wellington-based Somali Adam Awad, a member of the network’s steering committee, says he was subjected to death threats as he sought to bring the communities together.

“A lot of the leaders, they totally refuse to come. They say to me, ‘if you don’t stop this, we will. Your life is in danger – stop this kind of nonsense’. ” 

It was a long, challenging and interesting journey to unite the communities, he says.

“We aim to work together because we’re all refugees, irrespective of where we’re from.”

Access to services is a major issue facing refugees in New Zealand.

Mr Awad says government policy places too much emphasis on short-term issues, and the services cost the Government when it ignores long-term problems facing refugees such as housing, mental health and employment.

He says the $1200 re-establishment grant for refugees to establish a house has not changed since 1992.

“The problem is a lot of these policies haven’t been consulted [on, they have] been decided for different, other groups, like in the Pacific. It doesn’t make any sense to refugees really. The need is different. The practice is different from the policy.”

Refugee advocates, non-government organisations and government departments will meet later this month in Wellington to discuss issues around mental health and housing.

Mr Awad, who was honoured with the Wellington Community Services Award in 2007, has been the executive director of Wellington’s ChangeMakers Refugee Forum since it was established in 2006.

The refugee-governed agency works to help refugee communities to stand on their feet, and received an award at the national diversity conference last year for its work.

“[We want to] empower the communities so they can access the services.

“We have been through all sorts, but we never give up, because as refugees we are survivors and we don’t give up easily.”

PICTURE: Adam Awad of ChangeMakers Refugee Forum.

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is a graduate of Whitireia NewsWire. He's a reporter for BusinessWire (yes - he does like the wire theme), where he writes daily stories updating currency movements. And he still spends far too much time reading blogs.
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