Push to en­rol mi­grants

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

IF MORE mi­grants voted it could be a game changer on elec­tion day, Auck­land Re­gional Eth­nic Coun­cil pres­i­dent Ce­cil Ram Lochan says.

The New Zealand Gen­eral So­cial Sur­vey find­ings show 59.4 per cent of re­cent mi­grants didn’t vote in the 2011 Gen­eral Elec­tion.

Re­sults for long-term mi­grants were sim­i­lar to those born in New Zealand, with 18 per­cent and 16 per cent re­spec­tively not vot­ing.

Lochan and other lead­ers are or­gan­is­ing pre-elec­tion fo­rums to en­cour­age their com­mu­ni­ties to vote on Septem­ber 20.

‘‘We want our peo­ple to know who they’re vot­ing for and be fully in­formed about party poli­cies and how they af­fect them.’’

The rea­son some mi­grants don’t vote is ei­ther they’re too busy, they’re dis­in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics or they don’t feel their needs are be­ing ad­dressed by govern­ment, the Mt Roskill res­i­dent says.

But the 2013 Cen­sus re­sults show they are an in­creas­ingly sig­nif­i­cant group. A quar­ter of New Zealand’s pop­u­la­tion was born over­seas and the num­ber of peo­ple of Asian eth­nic­ity has al­most dou­bled since 2001.

Thirty-nine per cent of the Auck­land pop­u­la­tion is made up of mi­grants and nearly one in four is Asian.

Lochan says it’s about time eth­nic peo­ple were prop­erly rep­re­sented in pol­i­tics.

‘‘The Of­fice of Eth­nic Af­fairs is do­ing a good job but it’s a small part of the De­part­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs.

‘‘If we have a well-funded min­istry then it can ad­dress all the needs and con­cerns that af­fect eth­nic groups.’’

The top is­sues for them are law and order, the elim­i­na­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion, im­mi­gra­tion and em­ploy­ment law and im­proved sup­port ser­vices for for­mer refugees, he says.

‘‘These peo­ple are wel­comed when they ar­rive but once they get into the com­mu­nity, they’re let go of. They come from war-stricken coun­tries and have been af­fected psy­cho­log­i­cally.

‘‘There should be a pe­riod in which they are given as­sis­tance to come to terms with life in this coun­try and to help them set­tle prop­erly.’’

Auck­land Refugee Com­mu­nity Coali­tion pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer Kafeba Mun­dele agrees the re­set­tle­ment process is in­ad­e­quate.

New Zealand ac­cepts 750 refugees a year and about 70 per cent of them live in Auck­land but their po­lit­i­cal needs are not be­ing met, he says.

There should be more em­ploy­ment, health and ed­u­ca­tional pro­vi­sions to help them in­te­grate. Peo­ple are dis­en­gaged with pol­i­tics be­cause of the lack of sup­port they re­ceive as well as the stigma as­so­ci­ated with the word refugee, he says.

‘‘The back­ground of peo­ple, where they come from, whether they are ed­u­cated is not taken into ac­count. They are viewed by politi­cians as il­lit­er­ate and as peo­ple who live from hand-to-mouth.

‘‘Peo­ple ask why should I go and waste my time vot­ing for a govern­ment that doesn’t prop­erly help me to re­set­tle?’’

One of Coali­tion chair­man Abann Yor’s roles is to make sure refugees re­alise vot­ing is not only safe here, but an im­por­tant part of cit­i­zen­ship.

Coali­tion women’s co-or­di­na­tor Ye­huala Aboye says women who come from pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­eties and ru­ral ar­eas are un­ac­cus­tomed to par­tic­i­pat­ing in pol­i­tics and the lan­guage bar­rier can be a prob­lem.

‘‘I feel women need in­for­ma­tion and to be aware of what their [po­lit­i­cal] voice means and how it will have an im­pact. We need to ac­tively in­volve these women, not only in the elec­tion but in the long-term in­te­gra­tion process.’’

Photo: KA­RINA ABADIA

Speak­ing up: Abann Yor, Ye­huala Aboye and Kafeba Mun­dele are mem­bers of the Mt Roskill-based Auck­land Refugee Com­mu­nity Coali­tion and are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to vote.

Bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion: Auck­land Re­gional Eth­nic Coun­cil pres­i­dent Ce­cil Ram Lochan wants party poli­cies to ad­dress mi­grants’ con­cerns.

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