Home > Publications > Research > The Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement Journey > Part 2: On-arrival > Pre-departure information needs

The Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement Journey part 2: On-arrival


Before departure, refugees to New Zealand are given a pre-departure settlement booklet that provides basic information about New Zealand. The booklet’s aim is to help ease tension about resettlement to an unknown country and covers the climate, people, language, history, health care, housing, education for children and adults, travel to New Zealand, the Mangere orientation programme and so on. This booklet is translated into the first language of the client group.

Refugees are also given an opportunity to ask questions about New Zealand and the resettlement process at the end of their UNHCR interview. Additionally, once the Department of Labour has approved the refugees and allocated them to an intake for travel to New Zealand, they also attend a briefing with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This briefing focuses on preparing to travel to New Zealand. Bhutanese refugees stay at the IOM transit centre in Kathmandu for three days before departure.

Those interviewed were asked about the information they had received before their departure from the camps and whether other information would have been useful for them before they left. Interviewees gave a variety of responses to these questions which are explored in this section.

More information about New Zealand

Almost all of those interviewed felt they did not have adequate information about New Zealand or there was some aspect about New Zealand and its systems they would have liked more information on before leaving the camps. Many interviewees commented that they had minimal knowledge about New Zealand compared with other resettlement countries such as the United States and Canada. They experienced a sense of ‘missing out’ and a feeling that those going to other countries had better and timelier information, so were much better prepared. For many it was felt some pre-departure orientation would be invaluable. For example:

People only know a little about New Zealand [compared to other countries like the United States and Canada]. Orientation for those countries happens there, but not for New Zealand. Would have been good to do some orientation there. Basic orientation classes there would be good, with pre-departure information – a one- to two-day orientation. (Adult male)

If the information is given before hand, then we can prepare themselves, so that they won’t face much trouble here. (Adult female)

Cleanliness, hygiene, toileting practice, people wash outside, toilet system is very different. (Adult male)

More information about what and how much to bring to New Zealand

Information about what to bring to New Zealand

Many of those interviewed felt there was not enough information about what to bring to New Zealand. They were uncertain about the New Zealand climate, what would be supplied in New Zealand, and maximum baggage allowances, so many of those interviewed packed more than was necessary and were charged for excess luggage. This caused stress and concern that could have been prevented with better information:

I brought excess bags – and had to pay money on the way and had lots of trouble. I bought three very big bags – 25 kg–30 kg – I thought it would be ok because was told it was 100 kg for the [all] of us, but it was not, as only allowed 20 kgs. (Middle-aged male)

Clothing – many were worried about what clothing to bring, but didn’t know that clothing would be supplied here. (Middle-aged male)

Information about customs processes

Interviewees also felt there was a lack of coherent information about what they could bring into New Zealand. This distressed some of those interviewed. UNHCR officials check all bags before refugees leave Nepal and apply the same rules (according to United States regulations) regardless of destination country and its allowances. Some of those interviewed had packed Ghurka knives (a traditional cooking tool) into their checked luggage, which UNHCR officials later removed. This caused distress because the refugees had been correctly informed that they could bring these traditional items into New Zealand so long as they were in their checked luggage. This was exacerbated by the fact they had also been told to bring items of cultural importance to keep their culture and traditions alive in New Zealand:

Need clear information about what we could bring – not allowed to carry scissors [Ghurka knife and scissors taken out]. Told us that we must not forget nationality and customs – but were not allowed to carry Ghurka knife for cooking. We should be allowed to carry it – UNHCR needs to be told. I am expressing the feelings of other people. (Middle-aged male)

More information about the journey to New Zealand

For many, the journey to New Zealand was long and stressful. A lack of reliable information meant many were unprepared, with some not even knowing the length of the journey. The stopover time in Singapore was short, and the group had to navigate its way from one terminal to another and find the correct boarding gates. Because of the short timeframe many had to run, which was made difficult by not knowing where to go, carrying bags and children, and being confronted by foreign technology such as travellators. Interviewees felt more support at this stage of the journey would have been helpful:

After changing the flight in Singapore it was quite difficult, at that time, no one was representing there was no person from New Zealand, was no person in Singapore who can direct us to another flight. It was quite difficult. That caused problems. (Adult male)

Transit – didn’t know we had limited time – we had to run with babies and bags. No help and support was provided. There was too little time. When we came to the travellator many women fell down on that, because they couldn’t walk comfortably on their own, they had to run. (Middle-aged male)