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DO WE REALLY OFFER REFUGE? Using Galtung's Concept of Structural Violence to Interrogate Refugee Resettlement Support in Aotearoa New Zealand

Rachel Rafferty, Anna Burgin, Vivienne Anderson


Although the impact of physical violence on refugees’ lives is well documented, the impact of structural violence on their post-settlement experiences is less clearly recognised and conceptualised. Structural violence refers to harm to human wellbeing caused by social structures such as economic systems, legal frameworks and government institutions. This concept calls into question the quality of ‘refuge’ offered to refugees in societies where they will encounter sharp economic inequalities and multiple barriers to their social participation. We present a case study of Aotearoa New Zealand, a society with low levels of physical violence but significant forms of structural violence, and explore how these structural inequities impact resettled refugees in particular ways. By defining and conceptualising the negative impacts that structural violence can have on refugees’ experience of resettlement, we hope to contribute to future resettlement practices that will recognise not only the physical violence that former refugees have faced in the past, but also better support them to overcome the structural challenges they face in their new home.


structural violence; resettlement; refugees; Aotearoa; New Zealand

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