World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine welcome today’s announcement that the Government will provide a pathway to residency for Ukrainians seeking safety in New Zealand following the Russian invasion.
World Vision’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, says the change provides much-needed certainty for hundreds of Ukrainians enabling them to rebuild their lives and futures in Aotearoa New Zealand.
More than 1500 Special Ukraine Visas have been granted and around 340 visa holders are currently in New Zealand. The two-year visa was introduced in March 2022 as part of a humanitarian response to those fleeing Ukraine due to the war.
“The special visa was a great initial step to provide immediate support for families and children fleeing war, but Ukrainians who settled in New Zealand have been longing for certainty that they can make this country their permanent home, so they won’t have to return to an active war zone,” Armstrong says.
“The New Zealand Government’s extension of certainty and pathways to residence for Ukrainians affected by conflict echoes similar actions taken by countries like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA.
“This practice reflects New Zealand’s commitment to humanitarian principles, demonstrating compassion, solidarity, and protection to those who have been impacted by global challenges,” Armstrong says.
World Vision New Zealand has been working in partnership with Mahi for Ukraine to advocate for the humanitarian support for displaced Ukrainians to resettle in New Zealand.
Mahi for Ukraine spokesperson, Kate Turska, says today’s announcement is a beacon of hope and will bring immense relief to families who have already experienced so much.
“Families who have settled in New Zealand from Ukraine come bearing the scars of war. They have seen the worst that humanity has to offer, and they have come to this country seeking peace and refuge.
“The ongoing support demonstrated by New Zealand towards those affected by the illegal war in Ukraine is deeply appreciated by our community. The Ukrainian community acknowledges the compassion shown by the Government today in offering this pathway to residency,” she says.
Ukrainians in New Zealand since 2022 have arrived on a special visa rather than as refugees and this means they have not had access to the same entitlements and supports that are granted to refugees, such as pathways to residence.
The new pathway to residency policy will be available to all Ukrainians who arrive in New Zealand before March 15, 2024.
Armstrong says New Zealand will benefit from Ukrainians now having the certainty to invest in this country, create businesses, and integrate into the community.
“Now that they know they have a pathway to residency here in New Zealand, Ukrainians have the stability they need to focus on the long-term and rebuild dreams, careers, and families here,” she says.
Turska says while the community is extremely grateful for the Government’s commitment to simplifying the residency application process, the visa fee may be prohibitive for some vulnerable families.
She wants Ukrainians in New Zealand to know that Mahi for Ukraine will work to support them through fundraising efforts to pursue residency.
“New Zealand’s actions speak volumes about its commitment to humanitarian values, and we are thankful to be a part of a nation that stands by those in need,” Turska says.
World Vision and Mahi for Ukraine have been strong advocates for the Government to show humanitarian support for Ukrainians since the war began 18-months ago. In March 2022, the organisations sent an open letter to the Government calling for the introduction of the Special Ukraine Visa. Another open letter in March 2023 requested the Government provide certainty and pathways to residency for Ukrainians.
“We want to thank New Zealand’s NGO sector and Ukrainian organisations for signing the two open letters and the New Zealand Government for actioning our asks,” say Armstrong and Turksa.
To help World Vision with its work to support those who have fled places like Ukraine, you can donate at www.wvnz.co.nz/CHR
To help Mahi for Ukraine with their initiative to support displaced Ukrainians in NZ through the residency application process and wider settlement, you can donate to Ukrainian Refugee Relocation Trust, details at http://www.mahiforukraine.com/the-ukraine-refugee-relocation-trust/