Push to enrol migrants
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.’’
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.