26 Feb 2016

Refugees set to start new lives

7:17 pm on 26 February 2016

The first of the refugees entering the country under an emergency quota will arrive in Wellington tomorrow.

Wafik Darwish with his family

Wafik Darwish with his family Photo: SUPPLIED

The emergency intake allows for 600 Syrian refugees over two and a half years in addition to the regular refugee quota of 750 annually.

The 90 Syrians have spent the past six weeks in the Mangere Resettlement Centre in Auckland.

IT worker Wafik Darwish arrived in Wellington as a skilled migrant a year and a half ago.

He was looking for a safe haven for his family after civil war broke out in Syria. While waiting for Immigration New Zealand to process his application he worked in Sierra Leone and Dubai.

His wife and young son followed him to New Zealand three months after he had arrived and found a job.

Despite leaving a father and two sisters in Syria, Mr Darwish counted himself lucky because he spoke English and was qualified.

He said the refugees would face extra challenges, but would eventually settle down.

"Home is not only the place where you were born, home is also the place where you have been welcomed, provided a home and safety for your family, so definitely New Zealand is home for me now, and I'm not going to leave it."

Daniel Gamboa Salazar

Daniel Gamboa Salazar Photo: RNZ / Kate Pereyra-Garcia

Colombian refugee and Victoria University student Daniel Gamboa Salazar arrived with his mother three and a half years ago.

"I always tell people that for us it's double the work, triple the work, obviously English is not our first language. It's really hard, just the idea of adapting to the New Zealand culture and making friends."

Mr Gamboa Salazar said there were special challenges for young refugees.

Family dynamics often shifted because parents or guardians took longer to learn the language and the children had to look after them, he said.

Actor Makuei Aken arrived from Sudan 13 years ago with his aunt and nephews.

He said it took time to settle in at school and get used to strange new traditions such as celebrating a birthday and not having to keep moving around.

"It was always in the back of my mind that I'm not going to stay here longer, we kept moving from Sudan to Kenya and then Kenya to New Zealand," he said.

"Something that just got stuck in the back of my head is that I just make friends and them leave them behind."

The 26-year-old said that took a while to get over.

His advice for the Syrians arriving tomorrow was to find someone who spoke their language to help explain things.

About 80 Syrians arrived last year under the annual refugee quota and have already settled in Wellington.

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