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My name is Dr Hasina Dilawari; I identify myself as an Afghan New Zealander, who is now a New Zealand citizen. I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, where my family, relatives, and ancestry originate from. Before I became a New Zealander, I experienced a challenging resettlement journey that took all of 1 year and six months. It started in 2013 when I was forced to flee as a mother from Afghanistan to Pakistan because of the ongoing war. We sought asylum for resettlement opportunities in the third country of resettlement and ended up in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

My family and I became New Zealanders in June 2015, when we received a Permanent Resident visa while waiting in Islamabad, Pakistan. When we arrived in 2015, I did not know much about the NZ. The few things I knew were that Aotearoa/New Zealand was a small green country, and the Case officer gave us a DVD to learn the rules and regulations of the country. Also, my kids were excited to go to New Zealand, so they started researching it and watched a few videos on the Internet.

I like New Zealand because of the education my children are receiving. They give my children the opportunity to study, and don’t have to be rich to study here. Also, I love that once you become a citizen, you can travel the world without borders. The health system is out of this world. In the countries we are from, we always worried about need a lot of money to get the healthcare when you get old, but here it is free for everyone. Since coming to Aotearoa/New Zealand, I have completed level 4 in English. I have also completed other courses, including gardening, food safety, computer learning, parenting, and a business idea course. I am also volunteering with ARCC, NZ Red Cross, and working with the Wise Collective. When I came here, I started getting depressed due to isolation, especially when the children leave school and feel useless.

When I was in Afghanistan, I had my own hospital. Unfortunately, due to regulation, I do not have a medical license here to practice; I feel useless here. I started getting a hold on my life and wanted to start my new career here. I joined Wise Collective started cooking and received fantastic food feedback from customers. Now my kitchen is registered with a grade A certificate.

I do not like the immigration process here, because I wanted to sponsor my husband, but you cannot sponsor when you are on the Benefit. When forced migrants like me cannot practice when they come here, even though I am a doctor. But you must speak perfect English. If we are from a medical background, at least let us take a practical test, and if we succeed, that should be enough. The exam price is more than $10,000. In Europe, for example, they take the practical exam, and if they succeed they get the license. Even if the language is a barrier, at least I would be able to serve my community. 

The challenge I faced in my settlement and integration process was the language barrier. It wasn’t easy to learn the language. Another challenge was driving, but now I have a full license. When I first came here to a new country, settling here was challenging because the money I received from WINZ was $120 a week, which is not enough to resettle here in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

I miss my homeland, my friends, and my family. Even you live in a beautiful country like Aotearoa/New Zealand, you cannot forget the memories you have from back home. I also miss the fruit Ibrahim Khani, and the gandana vegetable.

My message to new residents who have experienced a similar journey is to adopt the good things, not the bad things. People from the forced migrant community are sometimes addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, and other narcotics. Please adopt the good things like studying for a better future, eat healthy, and relax here. Please do not become addicted to any kind of drug. Also, the message for parents is to take better care of their children and raise them to be gentlemen.

My message for locals is that anyone from a forced migrant background came here because they had no other choice. Try to put yourself in our place and think how it feels. Our hearts are broken, and we need your kindness to be resettled here. Also, if we can reunite with our families and if Immigration can give us some programme to reunite with our families here, that would be much appreciated.

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