My name is Ata ul Hameed; I identify myself as a Pakistani New Zealander, who is now a New Zealand citizen. I was born in Pakistan, where my family, relatives, and ancestors originate from. Before I became a New Zealander, I experienced a challenging resettlement journey that took all of 4 years. It started in 2013 when I was forced to flee from Pakistan to Thailand, because of the ongoing discrimination towards the Ahmadiya community. We sought asylum for resettlement opportunities in a third country and ended up in New Zealand.
My family and I became New Zealanders in May 2016, when we received a permanent resident visa whilst waiting in Bangkok, Thailand. We have faced a lot of challenges while we were refugees in a third country but overcoming all challenges which I faced there including my back was so badly hurt, I could not able to walk at some point. When we arrived in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in 2017, I did not know much about New Zealand. One thing I knew that New Zealand has a very good cricket team. I grew up watch Pakistan vs New Zealand.
I loved the way how Immigration New Zealand came to welcome us at the airport and filled all the forms by themselves. Later they took us to Mangere Resettlement center. We spent 6 weeks there and learned a lot about Maori and New Zealand culture. One other thing which I loved about New Zealand is that I have freedom of religion where I can practice my religion safely here whereas I did not have this opportunity in my home country. I voted first time in my life last year, which I did not have the opportunity before. I am a Pakistani New Zealander and I am proud to call Aotearoa my home. Here I can see the future of my children as all three of my daughters are schoolgoing. My physical and mental health is getting much better.
What I do not like about New Zealand is the waiting time for new residents, it is sometimes longer than 3 years. Some refugees in third countries are waiting for more than 3 years after they get the acceptance letter from Immigration New Zealand. Spending even 1 day in a country of your asylum is like hell.
The challenges I faced in my resettlement and integration process were establishing a network, finding suitable employment, and feeling that I belonged to New Zealand society. I have missed a lot about my country of origin, reflecting on my childhood, before being forced for displacement, where I grew up is a very small city. I used to wake up early and go offer a prayer in a mosque later on we all friends used to gather and play cricket in the street. I miss the delicious food and sweet Mangoes ‘Chaunsa’, the king of mangoes.
My message to new residents, who have experienced a similar journey, is to try your best at what you do. Do not let anybody abuse your rights. Stand up for yourself because in this country you have your rights and nobody can abuse it. Learn to drive, learn the language, integrate in New Zealand’s culture while being connected with your own community.
The role of New Zealanders in the resettlement process should be to welcome resettled immigrants. My message to New Zealand’s wider community is to give New Residents some time to settle in. These people are not burden on the country because trust me one day these people will have your back and they will be there to protect you as you are protecting them today.