Ravaged by civil war, and the bloodshed worsening, Mohamed Muse's family had two options - flee and pray they survived, or stay and die.

In 1993, Somalia was facing some of its darkest days. Civil war, thousands of casualties, a power struggle and the collapse of a nation. The capital, Mogadishu, at the time was the most dangerous city in the world.

West Auckland-bred Mohamed Muse was just one year old when his family made a decision to flee Somalia before seeking refuge in New Zealand.

"Humanitarian issues were really dire so our family decided to get out. Survival meant a voyage by sea to the neighbouring Yemen," he told the Herald.


"That journey was lethal. The voyage had a 50 per cent chance of survival, and we were literally sailing over corpses while I was in my mother's arms. It's a journey that'll stay with me for the rest of my life.

"We're very desensitised regarding refugees here because it's so far away for us, but when I share my personal story of how I got here I get friends saying to me 'damn bro, I didn't know it was like that'."

Muse and his family then made the trek from Yemen to Kenya, where they were granted asylum to New Zealand.

The 24-year-old has lived the extreme highs of graduating from Otago University with a Bachelor of Pharmacy and the extreme lows of staring death in the face back home in Somalia.

Humbled by New Zealand's generosity, Muse, who is also a music artist is immesely grateful of our nation's refugee stance but believes Kiwis need to drop the stigma that all refugees are "bottom-feeding leeches".

"I'm incredibly proud of New Zealand's human rights record. We have done an incredible job of handling refugees as well.

"I feel the quota could be a little bit higher but what people need to understand is the economical benefits long term that refugees actually contribute to New Zealand. It's underrated.

"The common thinking appears to be that those who seek asylum are going to leech off the government and that we're only helping them out on good faith.

"What's important is these people come from very prominent societies before the collapse of their countries. We're getting refugees from every socio-economic range. It's unfair to paint them all with one brush and say they're all uneducated. These are literally normal people that are going to another country to survive.

"It would be like NZ going into civil war and everyone seeking refuge in Indonesia and the locals all saying 'these damn Kiwis'. They'll have a prexisting idea of what these refugees are."

Mohamed Muse is a qualified Pharmacist while one of his sisters is a doctor and the other in her final year of Medicine at university. Photo / Supplied
Mohamed Muse is a qualified Pharmacist while one of his sisters is a doctor and the other in her final year of Medicine at university. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand's annual quota is 750 refugees, with more than 33,000 refugees settling here since World War II.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing for Muse and his family.

Coming from Africa, Muse and his family started behind the rest, having to learn a completely new language and a new way of life.

"We all come with different circumstances, I was lucky I didn't have to start 50 steps behind the rest, like many refugees do. I was fortunate I was raised her since I was a young boy.

"But the challanges are still enormous, you're trying to help your family navigate a society that's completely foreign.

"What New Zealand is doing is great compared to other places in the world, including Australia. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was God's will, but we are fortunate that New Zealand is so welcoming to refugees. Many other countries aren't."

Since leaving Otago University, Muse has run his own pharmacy in Dunedin, while his sisters are both highly successful, one being a qualified doctor and the other in her final year of medicine.

Working hard to give back to the country that took him in, Muse hopes that Kiwis can look past the colour of his skin or his country of origin in the hope that racial stereotypes will one day deminish in New Zealand.

Muse said that the only thing different between refugees and New Zealanders is the roll of the dice in which set of situations you are born in to.

"Seeking asylum is a human right. It's human nature to want safety and security. There's a lot of discrimination, there's a lot of 'us against them'.

"The only reason that these people are refugees and you're not is pure luck. You're born into a set of circumstances that is less or more fortunate than others.

"Just know that we as humans are all just reflections of each other, and the only thing that seperates us is the circumstances we are born into."

"I'm incredibly proud of New Zealand's human rights record. We have done an incredible job of handling refugees as well." Photo / Supplied

On Wednesday, Donald Trump's firm stance on his disturbing immigration policy prompted Muse to speak out, which also happened to be World Refugee Day.

Frustrated at seeing Mexican refugee families being split up at the border, Muse said Trump is denying families seeking a human right - the right to safety.

"I think there's border control, and then there's this, which is border control with a really sinister side to it.

"You've got to understand that historically, including during [Nazi] Germany, breaking up family units was one of the greatest strategies used to oppress people.

"Not only are they denying these people asylum, but if they do get the asylum, the Trump administration would want to make sure they have the least chance of becoming functional members of society. And breaking up the family unit is one of the ways to do this."

But Muse's final message are for the millions of refugees out in the world just looking for safety and peace, and to those who have helped saved the lives of fellow refugees.

"Happy World Refugee Day to all of my survivors, all the people that never made it, the ones being murdered and imprisoned in their own countries, those in crowded refugee camps, those who made it to foreign lands with only half of their family members, the kids too embarrassed to speak their native language/s in school, the kids that had to raise their younger siblings and the enormous pressure to build a better life for their families, the people that are being tortured in detention centres as we speak, the victims of racism and alienation, the victims of media persecution and "othering", and every social worker thats ever helped a refugee family settle in.

"You are all appreciated. You all matter. Don't ever let anyone make you feel less."