Community Policing and the Syrian Refugee Community in Wellington District

Author: Tohill, Yvette
Published in National Security Journal, 08 March 2021

DeSouza (2011) examined the resettlement experience of refugee women in New Zea­land who came as a single parent unit. The study concluded that women on their own experienced a magnification of many of the issues encountered by refugees generally, and may benefit from a more comprehensive support system. Racism, relating to cloth­ing and accent was experienced, both interpersonally and institutionally. Parenting challenges produced feelings of disempowerment with the intervention of government services.7 This study raises questions regarding how the New Zealand Police can best support and service refugee women.

Rose Kadri (2009) explored the journey of Arab Muslim refugees to New Zealand. Many of her conclusions echoed those of Fitzgerald’s, with language barriers, unemployment, challenges with family and a reluctance to view New Zealand as a permanent home all experienced.8 Gaps existed regarding expectations and delivery for Government Housing and Employment services. Housing in areas described as “deprived”, contributed to feeling unsafe.9 As the study only dealt with the agencies that are part of the resettlement process, it is not known how participants felt about other services, such as the New Zealand Police.

Elliot and Yusuf (2014) examined the experiences of Somalian refugees in New Zea­land, through both interviews of refugees, and a focus group of refugee services. They argue, multiculturalism is a positive force which supports a sense of security and social cohesion. Their conclusions highlight that while positive relationships support a sense of belonging, unfriendly occurrences could also undermine integration.10 Refugee re­lationships with state structures can impact on perceptions of value in comparison with other groups within New Zealand society. A focus group of eight government service providers and non-government organisations in Elliot and Yusuf’s study highlighted concerns over the impact of ethnic profiling by law enforcement agencies.11 It is un­clear whether this opinion was formed through first-hand observations, or the reported experiences of their clients, which may or may not be subjective interpretations. Fur­thermore, it is uncertain whether ‘law enforcement agencies’ refers solely to the New Zealand Police.

Kate, Verbitsky and Wilson (2018) examined the perceptions of sources of conflict in the Auckland refugee community. Over half of the refugee community leaders in­terviewed reported a general fear of authority figures and the New Zealand Police in particular, from within their own communities. Sources of these feelings included the transference of fear from home country experiences, as well as the creation of misun­derstandings due to language barriers.12 While this suggests these feelings are a percep­tion only, they are likely to have a significant impact on any interactions with authority figures in New Zealand.