World Refugee Day

June 20th is World Refugee Day, a day to remember refugees world wide who have had to leave their homes and may never return. A refugee is a person who has had to escape from their country because they could be imprisoned or killed for their beliefs. Sometimes it is because of their religion, sometimes because of their race or their political beliefs. There are around 40 million refugees in the world who are living in other countries and cannot go home.

New Zealand takes 750 refugees every year, chosen by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Most of these people have been living in refugee camps for many years. They have no idea where New Zealand is but they know it must be better than living in a camp. When they arrive in New Zealand, they spend six weeks in Mangere, Auckland where they have health checks, they learn some English and bi-lingual speakers tell them things they need to know about living in our country. After six weeks, they move to their own home, often in another city, where they are sponsored by a group of New Zealanders who help them to settle.

The first sponsored refugees were 734 Polish orphan children and their caregivers who came here in 1944. Their parents were killed during the Second World War. Many of these children were adopted by New Zealand families. Since then, more than 20,000 refugees have settled in New Zealand.

In the last 20 years, refugees have come from many countries where there is war. We have many people from Somalia and some other African countries, from Bosnia and Kosovo and from Afghanistan. Most of them want to learn English, get a good education and become a New Zealand citizen in the future.

What are some of the main differences between migrants who choose to settle in New Zealand and refugees who are forced to leave their country? Think about how they leave, what they bring with them, who they leave behind, what they have experienced and what the difficulties are for them settling into a new country.

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