Forced migration vs. voluntary migration

Forced Migration:

          The Mixing Room Exhibition: Afghans Flee the Taliban takeover.

Factors contributing to departure from Afghanistan:

“For the majority of people in war-torn countries, the reality is that life is indeed nasty, brutish and short.”[1] States Abbas Nazaari.[2] Iran and Pakistan stopped registering new Afghan refugees in 1997, meaning Afghans had to look further than neighbouring states for refuge.[3] From 1999, a significantly increased number of Afghans began to flee for safety after life under Taliban rule worsened, many sought to get to Australia in hopes for a better life.[4]

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Political and Ideological factors contributing to migrants’ departure from Afghanistan include the imposition of the strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law upon the entirety of Afghanistan. Most Afghans, worn out by years of drought, famine and war, approved of the Taliban on the promise of peace. However, with the Taliban in power, the threat to personal security for ethnic minorities had increased, and serious human rights abuses began.

The Taliban had imposed a strict social code, to comply with Sharia Law. This included severe restrictions on women’s freedom of movement, expression, and association.[5] Women and men would be publicly beaten for not adhering to the Taliban’s dress code.

Human rights were thrown out the window, Taliban militia would carry out arbitrary killings of civilians on mass.[6] One group in particular subject to these attacks were the ethnic minority group, the Hazaras. In August 1998, thousands of Hazara civilians[7] – despite age or gender – were reported to have been massacred by Taliban guards following the capture of the northern city Mazar-e Sharif from anti-Taliban forces.[8]

Afghanistan was not safe.

Factors facilitating and impeding the physical and bureaucratic travel of Afghans:

In 2001, 438 Afghans fled their homes in hope for a better life in – where they thought would be – Australia. The story of the TAMPA refugees will help illustrate the Migration pattern.

The Journey from Afghanistan:

In the middle of the night, the Nazari family, a family of ethnic minority Hazara, travelled from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where they stayed in a one-bedroom apartment while illegal travel documents were organised. Indonesia was to be the next step, to get to Indonesia they boarded a plane using the travel documents they had obtained in Pakistan. They stayed in Indonesia for two months while more illegal travel documents were organised. In Indonesia they haand to find a ship to get to Australia. One night they caught a bus to Port Meerak, where they caught up with the other Hazara families who were escaping atrocities in Afghanistan. The boat they boarded was the NV Palapa, a small fishing vessel with the capacity of 40. That night, 438 Afghans crammed onto the Palapa and set sail. The second day on the Palapa, the engine failed. The following day an SOS sign was put up, and theTampa, a Norwegian cargo shipheading from Australia to Singapore picked up the 438 passengers. The Palapa sank as the last of the passengers boarded the Tampa. From the Tampa, the Afghan refugees were wanting to go to Australia, where they had hoped to be processed.
Political impediment:

The Tampa arrived in Australian waters in the midst of an election. The policy on migrants had changed.[9] At the time of the Palapa’s departure of Indonesia, it was known to be Australia’s policy to rescue asylum seekers at sea, where they would then be detained in Australia while their claims for protection were processed. If the claims of the asylum were successful, the asylum seekers would receive a permanent protection visa. If the claims were not accepted, they would be returned to the country they had fled.

The Prime Minister of the time, John Howard, closed the doors on refugees.[10] The Tampa was forced back by SAS troops and the ship’s captain was under pressure to get Cargo back to Singapore. The refugees were transferred to the HMAS Manoora, where they waited for asylum after Australia refused to accept them, creating an international affair over which country would, or should, offer sanctuary on humanitarian grounds.[11]

In regard to the decision on what to do with the Tampa refugees, by 2 September, the Australian Government had obtained agreements with Nauru and New Zealand. The Royal Australian Navy took the Tampa’s asylum-seekers to Nauru, from here 131 of them were sent to New Zealand. The remaining were processed on Nauru, which took between three months to three years for some. For the Nazari family, New Zealand was the end of the 6-month journey from their village In Afghanistan. They were among the 131 that arrived in Auckland, where they were transferred to Mangere refuge center and processed.
This group of Asylum seekers were lucky, many boat people set out on journeys just as the Tampa refugees had, but the physical and bureaucratic route is very dangerous, and fill of uncertainty. Many don’t make the journey safely.

The reception and settlement of the Afghan refugees in NZ:

New Zealand had signed an international convention that supports the right of people to seek asylum, this was called the 1951 Refugee Convention which is.[12] This convention is “…the key legal document that forms the basis of our work. Ratified​ by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.”[13]

Helen Clark was Prime Minster at the time and decided to let in 131 of the Afghans. New Zealand government welcomed the Asylum seekers and supported their integration into our society. [14]

“The New Zealand government and public were watching and taking pity on our situation, they welcomed us to our new homeland with open arms.”[15] States one of many Afghans from the Tampa.

Following the arrival of the Tampa refugees, the New Zealand Government relocated some of the refugees families from Afghanistan to New Zealand as a humanitarian gesture to reunite relatives.[16] The Tampa refugees have created lives for themselves and live among us as New Zealanders, “In the beginning we were welfare dependent, but gradually we built ourselves up to integrate into the fabric of New Zealand society.”[17]

Tody, the Tampa refugees live as New Zealanders – they are business owners, university graduates, with families of their own in an environment where they feel safe and accepted.

Voluntary migration:

–          Tangata o le Moana: Pacific Islander’s migration to New Zealand:

Factors contributing to the departure from Pacific Island:

There are many stories and has been large debate regarding exactly what year Polynesians began settling in New Zealand, and how they achieved this. The current understanding of Polynesian’s journey to New Zealand is that they migrated from East and central Polynesia.[18] Their migration was deliberate, and occurred at different times, in different canoes.

According to Maori, the first Polynesian explorer to reach New Zealand was Kupe, who travelled across the Pacific in a Polynesian-style voyaging canoe. It is thought Kupe reached New Zealand 1070 years ago, using subtropical weather systems, star constellations, water currents and animal migration patterns to find their way from their native islands in central Polynesia to New Zealand.

Over hundreds of years a significant number of pacific islanders have migrated to New Zealand.[19]

Pacific Islands and New Zealand have had political ties from 1840 as a result of the  relationship through colonisation by the British. Migration from the Pacific Islands has historically been voluntary, with individuals and families often migrating for education and employment opportunities.

Factors facilitating and impeding the physical and bureaucratic travel of Migrants:

The Polynesian navigators guided their canoes to New Zealand by using their knowledge of the environment and interpretation of a range of natural signs including landmarks, island blocks, birds, stars, swells, clouds to find their way to land.[20] This was exploration, voluntary migration.

Migratory birds may have helped explorers discover new lands. Some explorers followed the birds to find out where they went. The stars are usually a navigator’s main guide because they move in predictable ways across the night sky. A star path is a series of stars that rise or set at the same point across the horizon. Sea markers such as reefs, whales, driftwood and changes in colour can indicate land is near. Clouds can indicate hidden land. Clouds travel more slowly overland and gather speed beyond it. Clouds can glow if passing over lagoons or reflect colours such as green of forests.

In recent times, the close state relations and employment opportunities in New Zealand have led to considerable migration of Pacific peoples to New Zealand.

New Zealand citizenship and the rights of residence for Cook Islanders, Niueans and Tokelauans have made the migration to New Zealand a relatively simple process. There has also been substantial migration to New Zealand from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, though these Polynesians do not have New Zealand citizenship, as a result of this migration from these islands has been influenced by periodic changes in New Zealand government policy.

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The Pacific population in New Zealand as recorded in the 2013 census was  95,941, this figure is 7.4 percent of New Zealand’s population.[21] The number of people who identify under Pacific peoples ethnicity increased 11.3 percent from the 2006 Census.[22] In some cases the New Zealand-resident population was larger than the population of the original island home.

In 2007 the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme was introduced, this scheme brought in thousands of workers from the Pacific Islands annually to work in New Zealand horticulture and viticulture.[23] This is a big encouragement for Pacific Islander’s to travel to New Zealand, though it was merely an option they had, not something they had to do.

The experiences of Pacific Islander’s reception and settlement in NZ:

Pacific Islanders were welcomed into New Zealand, as they have such similar language and culture to Maori, the first Pacific settlers found it relatively easy to communicate and establish themselves.

After the colonisation of New Zealand, Pacific Islanders were gradually Marginalised alongside Maori. Within the education and work system it is clear that while they may already be or have the opportunity to be New Zealand citizens, they are set on a backfoot. New Zealand government is, however, seemingly and slowly trying to close the gap between the economic and social disparity between that of Pacific islanders and New Zealand Europeans.

Forced vs Voluntary:

As can be seen above, there is a clear and defined difference between forced migration and voluntary migration. Looking to the Afghan refugees to New Zealand is a clear example of forced migration, where it would genuinely have not been safe to continue to reside in Afghanistan.

The Pacific people however, is a clear example of voluntary migration. It would not have impacted the safety or livelihood of the Pacific people if they had stayed in the Island’s, however saw an opportunity to move somewhere that may provide better education, or employment opportunities and so made the choice to uplift and travel across to New Zealand.

We can see world politics plays a large part in migration, both forced migrants and voluntary migrants. The Afghan refugees would not have settled in New Zealand if it weren’t for Helen Clark’s government of the day, and their policy on Asylum seekers – Such as there would have been no debacle if Australia hadn’t closed their gates to refugees. The same goes for Pacific Islanders – their migration may not have happened on such a large scale if it weren’t for the right to citizenship for Cook Islanders, Niueans and Tokelauans, or if the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme was not initiated.


  • Cooper, K. (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].
  • Desk, N. (2019). A Historical Timeline of Afghanistan. [online] PBS NewsHour. Available at:
  • (2019). New Zealand History/Polynesian Settlement – Wikibooks, open books for an open world. [online] Available at: .
  • (2019). Pacific Solution. [online] Available at:
  • (2019). World Hazara Council explains ‘mass migration of Hazaras’ at Vienna conference | [online] Available at:
  • Ministry of Health NZ. (2019). Tagata Pasifika in New Zealand. [online] Available at:
  • Nazari, A., Rowden, Adams and Weng (2019). As a Tampa refugee. [online] The Spinoff. Available at:
  • NZ Herald. (2019). Families of Tampa refugees on way to NZ. [online] Available at:
  • NZ Herald. (2019). Families of Tampa refugees on way to NZ. [online] Available at:
  • Roy, E. (2019). ‘Not welcome’ in Australia: from Tampa refugee to Fulbright scholar, via New Zealand. [online] the Guardian. Available at:
  • (2019). [online] Available at:
  • UNHCR. (2019). The 1951 Refugee Convention. [online] Available at:
  • (2019). Role of the Taliban’s religious police. [online] Available at:
  • Willner-Reid (2019). Afghanistan: Displacement Challenges in a Country on the Move. [online] Available at:

[1]Nazari, A., Rowden, Adams and Weng (2019). As a Tampa refugee. [online] The Spinoff. Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[2] Ted Talk x Abbaas Nazari

[3] Willner-Reid (2019). Afghanistan: Displacement Challenges in a Country on the Move. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[4] Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, The Mixing Room Exhibition: Stepping stones.

[6] Desk, N. (2019). A Historical Timeline of Afghanistan. [online] PBS NewsHour. [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[7] Cooper, K. (2019). [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[8] (2019). World Hazara Council explains ‘mass migration of Hazaras’ at Vienna conference | [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[9] (2019). Pacific Solution. [online] Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[10], above n 9.

[11] Roy, E. (2019). ‘Not welcome’ in Australia: from Tampa refugee to Fulbright scholar, via New Zealand. [online] the Guardian. [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[12] UNHCR. (2019). The 1951 Refugee Convention. [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[13] UNHCR, above n 13.

[14] NZ Herald. (2019). Families of Tampa refugees on way to NZ. [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[15] NZ Herald, above n 14.

[16] NZ Herald, above n 14.

[17] Nazari, A. above n 1.

[18] (2019). New Zealand History/Polynesian Settlement – Wikibooks, open books for an open world. [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[19], above n 18.

[20] (2019). Pacific islands and New Zealand  [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[21] Ministry of Health NZ. (2019). Tangata Pasifika in New Zealand. [online] [Accessed 31 Jul. 2019].

[22] Ministry of Health NZ, above n 21.

[23], above n 20.


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