Story: Africans

Page 2. Immigration

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1970s–1990s: refugees

Whites fleeing the Rhodesian war arrived in the 1970s. Two hundred Ugandans came in 1972–73 after President Idi Amin gave thousands of Asian Africans 90 days to leave the country.

New Zealand’s isolation and restrictive immigration policies meant that up until 1986 only about 10 people per year, of all nationalities, sought asylum or refugee status on arrival. With the adoption of a formal refugee quota in 1987, African refugee numbers increased.

In 1991 a more open immigration policy was adopted. With the wars in Ethiopia (1991–93) and Somalia (1992–94), and the genocide in Rwanda (1994), annual refugee arrivals averaged 290 for the decade ending in 2002.

The number of Africans gaining permanent residence also leapt from six in 1982 to 757 in 2003.

Countries of origin

Although South Africans made up the majority (82%) of all African arrivals until 2003, others came from Somalia (7%), Egypt (4%), Zimbabwe (4%), and Ethiopia (2%). In 1993 African immigrants came from 23 countries; by 2003 this number had increased to 44.

Somalia

In the decade since 1993, two years after Somalia imploded into clan warfare, 3,200 Somalis have been granted residency – 1,500 as refugees, and others through family reunification. In 2003 most had settled in Auckland’s western suburbs (1,200–1,500) with 1,000 in Hamilton and others in Hastings, Wellington and Christchurch. The Somali community are followers of Islam. Most are women, often raising children without fathers, who were casualties of war.

Ethiopia

In the last half of the 20th century Ethiopia suffered war, famine and economic collapse, which displaced millions of people. From 1993 to 2002, 966 Ethiopian refugees arrived. Most settled in Auckland; smaller numbers went to Wellington and Christchurch. The majority are of the Amhara ethnic group, but some are Oromo.

Egypt

In the mid-1990s some 1,500 Egyptians were granted permanent residence. By 2003 there were over 2,000, mostly in Auckland. Some are professionals, while others work in the restaurant industry. Many are Coptic Church followers – there are about 150 Coptic Orthodox families in Auckland.

Zimbabwe

From 2000 to 2003, around 1,800 Zimbabweans fleeing government persecution were granted permanent residence. Earlier immigrants formed the ZimCare Trust to aid subsequent arrivals, who often came with just suitcases. Lacking formal qualifications, many ex-farmers have had difficulty finding non-farming work. In 2004 the government announced that Zimbabweans already in the country, many of whom did not qualify for permanent residence, would be considered for permanent residence under a special policy. in the five years after 2001, the number of residents born in Zimbabwe increased by over 5,000 to a total of 8,151.

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Africans - Immigration', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/africans/page-2 (accessed 15 October 2019)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2015