Ex­refugees ex­plain dif­fi­cul­ties faced, re­set­tle­ment re­wards

Otago Daily Times - - GENERAL - JOHN GIBB [email protected]

DUNEDIN’S strong sup­port for refugees was praised yes­ter­day but some older refugees still faced a ‘‘lan­guage bar­rier’’.

Na­jibul­lah Lafraie, a for­mer Afghani refugee and for­mer for­eign min­is­ter of Afghanistan (1992­96), ad­dressed the Univer­sity of Otago con­fer­ence, which is de­voted to ‘‘Refuge in the City’’.

The two­day event fo­cuses on ‘‘for­mer refugees in ur­ban New Zealand’’, and is hosted by the univer­sity’s Cen­tre for Global Mi­gra­tions.

Dr Lafraie, who taught at the Otago pol­i­tics de­part­ment (2002­15), said he had been wel­comed with kind­ness, since shift­ing to the city.

He had vis­ited many coun­tries over the years and ul­ti­mately would like to re­turn to Afghanistan if that be­came pos­si­ble, he told about 50 con­fer­ence at­ten­dees.

But of all the other coun­tries he had vis­ited, he was hap­pi­est in New Zealand, he said.

Govinda Regmi, of the New Zealand Red Cross, and a for­mer refugee from Bhutan, gave a talk on ‘‘Quan­tum Leap: From refugee to change maker’’.

He dis­cussed iso­la­tion and lan­guage prob­lems faced by older refugees, and the chal­lenges of ‘‘start­ing a life from zero’’.

Zeina Al Naasan, who is study­ing at the Otago School of Den­tistry, af­ter flee­ing her home in Syria, dis­cussed the chal­lenges faced dur­ing what could be a ‘‘very stress­ful’’ first year of refugee re­set­tle­ment.

Af­ter sur­viv­ing the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis since World War 2, she had been moved by a warm wel­come from Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, and had re­ceived a ‘‘mes­sage of hope’’.

She also en­joyed Dunedin’s beau­ti­ful land­scape and it helped re­store her spir­its.

The gather­ing also heard that older refugees would ben­e­fit if more re­sources were pro­vided so that a speaker of the re­spec­tive lan­guages could be used to help sup­port groups in ex­plain­ing how to com­plete ap­pli­ca­tion forms.

PHOTO: CHRIS­TINE O’CON­NOR

Fond of Dunedin . . . For­mer Afghani refugee Na­jibul­lah Lafraie.

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