Saturday, March 5, 2016

s refugees arrive in NZ, a plea to employers

As dozens of refugees from Syria settle in to their new homes in Wellington, one former refugee is calling on employers to give them a go as they head out into the workforce.

Thomas Sawmhal left his home in conflict-ridden Myanmar 10 years ago. Alone and aged just 19, he first made the journey to Malaysia, where he managed to find work and a place to live.

It wasn't an ideal situation, but it would be another five years before he arrived in New Zealand as a refugee in July 2010.

Mr Sawmhal, now 29, didn't know much about New Zealand, aside from what his sister -- who was already here -- had told him.

"I didn't know what the country looked like. I asked my sister, 'Do they speak English?'" he recounted to NZ Newswire.

It hasn't been an easy road, but he's now working as an electrician's assistant and he dreams of one day owning his own business.

But finding a job when he arrived in New Zealand was harder than Mr Sawmhal expected.

He had experience, having worked as an electrician in Malaysia, but the standards in New Zealand were different.

That meant gaining a qualification through Weltec, which Mr Sawmhal had to juggle alongside his English lessons.

Before landing his dream job, Mr Sawmhal also spent two years working at a supermarket.

"It's been a long journey," he said.

Mr Sawmhal admits it is hard starting out in a new job, but he says refugees are always willing to work hard and learn.

"We only have a little bit of difficulty with the culture and language," he said.

"It only will be hard in the beginning."

Mr Sawmhal's boss and workmates are impressed with how he's doing.

"All my colleagues are very happy working with me, they always tell me, 'you are the man'."

Having a job means a lot to someone who's arrived in New Zealand as a refugee, Mr Sawmhal says.

"If you have a job, you can have more dreams," he said.

"My dream, if I can do it, I will own my own business."

Red Cross humanitarian services manager for Wellington Shane Laulu says getting a job is an important part of the settlement process for refugees.

"It's also part of the work around people gaining independence and gaining that control to be able to start to make decisions again," he said.

More Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in New Zealand in March and May.

The Government announced in September that it would welcome 750 Syrian refugees over the next three years in response to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Of the 750 places, 600 will be by way of a special emergency intake above the annual refugee quota while 150 places will be offered within the quota.