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Fears held for refugees falling into poverty, debt

Feb 14th, 2011 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

LEARNERS: Students enrolled in an ESOL course at Whitireia’s Porirua campus, standing from left, Quynh Nguyen, Grace Liu, Cheng Zeng, Mo Nguyen, John Jing Hkang, David Gong, Leidy Montes, Dani Giraldo, and sisters Chika and Surleny Ambuila. Seated is teacher Susan Dodds. Photo: Mohammad Nazayer

REFUGEES could end up living on benefits due to more funding cuts for English language courses.

The latest funding cut took effect at the beginning of this year and a specialist in the field says it will impact refugees’ ability to work and up-skill.
 
Judi McCallum, a Wellington English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) assessor, says it will leave refugees living at the government’s expense or with twice as much debt as other kiwis.

Ms McCallum says the Government repeatedly pledged to maintain a clear and “unrelenting” focus on employment, but these cuts will not serve that purpose.

“The cuts will lead to a lack of involvement and full participation in the host society.”

The Government has stopped several Training Opportunities funds worth more than $2 million that helped refugees and migrants learn English.

The Training Opportunities entitlement limit was reduced from three years to 26 weeks.

The new funding rules have already forced universities and polytechnics to refuse entry to students with basic English skills who have scored lower than three on the International English Language Testing System.

Refugees who cannot be accepted in universities and polytechnics might have to apply for student loans in order to improve their English.

Ms McCallum believes that even if refugees take student loans, they will not be able to pay them back.

The ESOL courses are not enough to offer them employment so they will have to take further loans for qualifications which will get them a job.

“Refugees will end up overburdened with loans and bad experiences in their new home.”

She also believes there is a human rights issue because it denies refugees the possibility of taking part in New Zealand’s “high skill” economy.

Dani Giraldo is one of seven Colombian refugees enrolled in the ESOL course at Whitireia’s Porirua campus.

She came to New Zealand with her two sons who are three and seven years old.

English is more than an employment requirement to her because she considers studying English as one of her duties as a mother.

She could not even help her seven year old son with his homework last year.

Dani fears her limited English skills might have a long term effect on her son’s future.

The cuts this year will make life more complicated for people like Dani and her sons.

Mohammad Ali Amiri, pictured, is an Afghani refugee who benefited from the refugees study grant, and now is studying Massey University.

Mohammad says succeeding in his study without the refugees study grant would be “a miracle”.
 
“If I had to start by the new rules, I would not be able to start my study.

“I would have to deal with two problems, one is my study fees, and other one is working to support myself and my family.”

Students enrolled in the English-for-speakers-of-other-languages course at Whitireia’s Porirua campus.

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is a Whitireia journalism student. He is a Jordanian who is studying in New Zealand.
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