University of Auckland: Refugee advisory panel members announced

The New Zealand Refugee Advisory Panel will be a collaborative place for refugee communities and organisations to represent themselves and advocate collectively on strategies and policies that affect them.

It is a joint initiative between the University of Auckland’s Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies (CAPRS), Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table (R-SEAT) and Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

The selection committee, which included refugee leaders, community representatives, tangata whenua and people from academia and government, has chosen nine panellists.

Selection committee chair, human rights lawyer Rez Gardi from CAPRS and R-SEAT, says panel members are from a number of regions across Aotearoa, represent a wide range of communities and ages, and collectively possesses broad expertise.

“Between them they have regional and international experience working with refugee-led initiatives and global advocacy with UNHCR, as well as experience in refugee resettlement advocacy and service provision; with key areas being gender, people with disabilities, youth, asylum seekers, education and mental health support,” she says.

Panel members also range from the recently arrived (less than four years ago) to those who’ve been living in Aotearoa for more than 20 years.


Rez Gardi says the panel is reflective of Aotearoa’s diverse refugee communities and brings tremendous expertise and passion to help support government decision-makers and policy developers on matters impacting refugees here.

“I’m thrilled to have been part of launching this inaugural panel and look forward to working with the panel on future matters where they can play a role in shaping refugee policy.”

Fiona Whiteridge, general manager of Refugee and Migrant Services at Immigration New Zealand (INZ), says the establishment of a New Zealand Refugee Advisory Panel is a significant milestone.

“I’m very excited at the announcement, it’s a reflection of the Government’s commitment to the refugee community and aligns with New Zealand’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy, which aims for refugees to have a strong sense of belonging to their own community and to New Zealand.”

She says the collective skills and experience of the panel members will enable meaningful participation in the development of policies and strategies to help make a real difference to the lives of former and future refugees in this country.


The Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies, R-SEAT and Immigration New Zealand are delighted to be collaborating on what they all believe is crucial kaupapa for Aotearoa.
The Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies, R-SEAT and Immigration New Zealand are delighted to be collaborating on what they all believe is crucial kaupapa for Aotearoa.

“Me mahi tahi tātou mot e oranga o te katoa – we must work together for the wellbeing of all.”

The nine panellists are:

Antoinette Umugwaneza, Palmerston North
Ayan Said, Auckland
Julia Sheikh, Auckland
Madiha Ali, Hamilton
Mustafa Derbashi, Auckland
Oo Meh Nga, Wellington
Paula Santacruz, Wellington
Rabia Talal Almbaid, Dunedin
Sahra Ahmed, Christchurch

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