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Immigration & refugees

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Who qualifies as a “refugee”


Who is a “refugee”?

Immigration Act 2009, s 129; United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, Article 1

You will be recognised as a refugee if:

  • you’re outside your country of nationality or habitual residence because you have a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of your race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion, and
  • you’re unable, or because of that fear, unwilling, to return to that country.

Who is a “protected person”?

Immigration Act 2009, ss 130, 131

You will be granted “protected person” status if you’re in danger of being killed, tortured or ill-treated if you’re deported from New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand will decide your claim on the basis of whether you should be recognised as a protected person under either of the following international conventions:

  • Convention Against Torture – You’re a “protected person” under this Convention if there are substantial grounds for believing you’d be in danger of being tortured if you were deported back to your country of origin
  • Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – You’re a “protected person” under this Covenant if there are substantial grounds for believing you’d be in danger of being arbitrarily killed or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment if you were deported back to your country of origin.

Immigration Act 2009, ss 130(3), 131(3)

When Immigration NZ is deciding whether you should be recognised as a protected person, they have to take into account whether in your country of origin there is a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Immigration New Zealand


Immigration New Zealand is the government organisation that deals with visa applications and other immigration issues. It’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.


You can read Immigration NZ’s Operational Manual at www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual

Immigration and Protection Tribunal


Red Cross Refugee Trauma Recovery


This Refugee Trauma Recovery service provides clinical and therapeutic support to former refugees who have experienced torture and/or trauma. The service is available to children, young people and adults.

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