My name is Sheraz Ahmed Loun; I identify as a Pakistan New Zealander who is now a New Zealand citizen. I was born in Pakistan where my family, relatives and ancestry originate. Before I became a New Zealander, I experienced a challenging resettlement journey that took all of 3 and half years. It started in 2013 when I was forced to flee as a family man from Pakistan to Thailand because of the ongoing discrimination against my Ahmadiyya sect. We sought asylum for resettlement opportunities in the third country of resettlement and ended up in New Zealand.
My family and I became New Zealanders in July 2016, when we received a Permanent Resident visa while waiting in Bangkok. When we arrived in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in 2016, I did not know much about New Zealand. I watched the orientation video which was provided by Immigration New Zealand and developed an idea of what life would be like in New Zealand. I did some Internet research, and that is all.
I like New Zealand because the environment and atmosphere are very good. People here are very nice and cooperative. I am a disabled person, and I have special needs. I really like the health care system here in New Zealand and the care I have received for the past five years. The doctors have been treating me with kindness and compassion, which is really good. Healthcare is hell-bent on finding the cure for blindness. They are still trying their best, and the medical care I have received is phenomenal. I say I suffer from a disability, but the way they have treated me has been out of this world. The doctors said I need bed rest all the time, but because my family needs me, I am usually not in bed in the daytime and always taking care of my children. It gives me a lot of willpower. The Blind Foundation New Zealand has been a big part of my journey here in New Zealand. I am also a member of Blind Foundation Manurewa.
What I do not like about New Zealand is that every organisation takes a lot of time to come back to us. After submitting an application to any government organisation, you have to wait for ages, even it’s an emergency. Also, there is systemic discrimination at Work and Income. If I have a problem and I request help, they refuse, but someone who is Kiwi-born could have the same problem, and they will approve support. This is not a myth, I have seen this with my own eyes.
I faced challenges in my settlement and integration process. I received no help whatsoever from my community, and I felt isolated and alone. I also needed a Housing New Zealand home, and nobody was there to help me. So I went to the Blind Foundation, they arranged a meeting with Dr Parmjeet Parmar, and when she came to our home, she promised she would fight for me to get a Housing New Zealand home. She fought for us, even though the housing managers said I would never get a Housing NZ home. They brought me the keys to the house. I am grateful to Dr Paramar and the G.P, who supported me along the way.
I miss my homeland Pakistan’s beautiful landscape, people, families, relatives, friends, and natural food. I also miss the Faisal Colony, Sialkot, and my pigeon, goats, Parrots, and dogs. We had fields filled with watermelon, melons, and raddish – we were surrounded by them. I also miss Pakistani Food, including beef curry and chicken BBQ.
My message to new residents who have experienced a similar journey is to try your best to maintain your hope, resilience, and high expectations of what you will achieve in the short term, medium and long term in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Don’t be the victim, and raise your voice. You have all the rights here in New Zealand as anyone else. Do not blame yourself for anything or others for your needs. You have come here, and you have succeeded. The day you arrived here, you succeeded. Also, have some patience and you will touch the sky, but it will take time. Do not bow down to anyone except God.
The message I would like to give to Local Kiwis is to try to listen to our stories and then judge us. Do not believe anything other people say about our forced migrant community.