Refugee background students

New Zealand accepts approximately 1000 refugees annually through the United Nations’ quota programme. Quota refugees spend about 6 weeks at the Centre for Refugee Education at the Refugee Resettlement Centre at Mangere.

Refugees can also apply to sponsor family members to join them in New Zealand under the family reunification programme. The family members do not go through the Refugee Resettlement Centre.

There are also asylum seekers whose claim for refugee status is determined by Immigration New Zealand.

Find out where some of New Zealand’s recent refugee groups have come from.

ESOL funding

English language learners from a refugee background qualify for ESOL funding in the same way as other English language learners. Refugees receive more intensive funding support for the first 2 years at school here, followed by 3 years of standard funding.

Check the ESOL funding criteria and amounts.

Apply for ESOL funding for a refugee background student.

Supporting students from a refugee background

Some children from a refugee background may have been in camps for most of their lives. They may have no memory of ordinary life and little knowledge about their own country. They may have fallen years behind in education or have never had any formal education.

For some, the trauma of moving to a new country and learning a new language can be greater than previous traumas of war and refugee camps.

The Ministry of Education’s Refugee Handbook for Schools [PDF, 1.2 MB] has detailed information to help schools support students from a refugee background – to help them learn and feel part of the school community and New Zealand society. If you have difficulty accessing the document, please email

The handbook includes sections on:

  • welcoming students
  • enrolment, placement and monitoring
  • planning and delivering effective teaching programmes
  • using bilingual support workers
  • providing pastoral care
  • supporting students at transition points.

Senior Advisers for Refugee and Migrant Support are based in Ministry of Education regional offices in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland. The senior advisers liaise between refugee communities, agencies and schools to help with education and resettlement. They can also help your school work with Special Education Services to support students with high and complex needs.

The Ministry has also established a Refugee Flexible Funding Pool which offers schools additional resources to address broader issues that may prevent refugee background students from participating and achieving in mainstream schooling. Please contact your nearest Senior Adviser refugee and migrant support for more information about this funding.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback