Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Burmese largest group of refugees and least likely to leave

The Burmese in New Zealand remain here not because they are well adjusted but because they have nothing to go home to. Photo / Supplied
The Burmese in New Zealand remain here not because they are well adjusted but because they have nothing to go home to. Photo / Supplied

Burmese form the largest group of people who were granted residence through the refugee quota programme.

The Burmese, who make up nearly half of all refugees who came to New Zealand last year, were also the least likely to be absent from New Zealand - with just 31 of the 1632 who had been granted residence since 2004 not living here.

Under the programme, about 750 refugees are accepted into New Zealand each year and are granted permanent residence on their arrival.

The Burmese in New Zealand remain here not because they are well adjusted but because they have nothing to go home to, said community spokesman Soe Thein.

Among those who came under the scheme was Hein Min Aung, a former child soldier who was used as a "human minesweeper" to clear landmines by the Burmese army.

"Many have lost everything, and their homes burned down, so they cannot go home ... they have nothing," Mr Thein said.

"Here, they struggle to integrate and face language barriers, but they have a roof over their head and their children can go to school."

Mr Thein believed more Burmese would consider going home as political freedom increases in Burma.

Inflow of refugees from Burma are expected to remain high, as ethnic and religious conflicts continue to escalate in the country.

Since March 20, at least 43 people have been killed and mosques burned down in central Burma, and thousands are now in refugee camps or hiding in homes of friends and relatives.

In the past 10 years, 7473 people have been approved for residence under the refugee quota, with the main source countries being Burma (1901), Afghanistan (1237) and Iraq (999).

International and humanitarian stream approvals, including the Samoan Quota and Pacific Access schemes account for 7 per cent of all residence visa approvals.

Tuvaluans and Tongans are most likely to remain in New Zealand beyond the period specified on their visas, Immigration New Zealand data showed.

People from five Pacific countries - Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati - make up 53 per cent of the 14,044 estimated overstayers here.

There had been a 6 per cent drop in numbers of overstayers, a reduction of 986, since May 2011.

There was a 20 per cent decrease in overstayers in the 25-34 age range.


Keenest to stay

Nationalities least likely to be absent (2004-11):
31 Burmese (2 per cent)
607 Fijian (3 per cent)
211 Tongan (3 per cent)

Source: Immigration New Zealand

- NZ Herald

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