Deportees: Making the best of things and then some
Coming out of prison is a huge change even when you’re going back to family or friends. Having served their time, released prisoners have to adjust to all the ways in which the world has changed and face challenges from difficulties finding employment or accommodation through to dealing with the stigma of being a released prisoner. Imagine then, being released from prison and having to deal with not only those challenges, but also being deported back into a country without the support of friends and family. . This is the situation many deportees are facing.
Philippa*, one of the many deportees supported by PARS (People At Risk Solutions), was recently deported from Australia back to New Zealand, the country of her birth. "I knew deportation was a possibility from the early days," says Philippa, who was made aware that she could eventually be deported back in 2008. In time, it became clearer that exactly that would happen.
She was pragmatic about what her situation was going to be upon her release from Australian prison and her return to New Zealand. Having lived in Australia for 25 years - well over half her life - she knew she would be going into an environment with no support. "I was coming with nothing, and to nothing."
So, she was proactive. "I asked Immigration what they were going to do with me. I wasn't going to go without a fuss!" Philippa says. As a result, she was put in touch with PARS - and "they've been incredible since day one".
Support from the start
With help from PARS enlisted before she even flew to New Zealand, the transition from country to country was smoother than Philippa could have imagined. "They filled in all of the gaps between Corrections and Immigration - dealing with all of the small details," she explains.
Navigating your way through a new country, knowing what services are available to you , and where to seek help from are where many difficulties lie for many deportees - without help from a third party, it's often hard for individuals to organise the support they need so that they don't arrive in the country with nowhere to go.
She has only been dealing with PARS for the past two months, but in that time, she has been given the help she needs to establish herself in her new life. PARS have provided accommodation, clothing, and the guidance to get things on track. "They made it a really, really good transition - everything that goes with it. PARS have the whole package - and it meant that I didn't have to be too stressed about everything."
Unlike many deportees, who struggle to find work, Philippa managed to find a job quickly with support from PARS. She now works full-time, and PARS continue to support her to make sure that everything's going well. "I had to do my part, and they did theirs - and together, we made magic."
The comfort of caring
"It was comforting," says Philippa of the support she received from PARS. "For deportees, we know we're coming over, but we have no idea what we're coming back to. It's like having an angel on the other side of the Tasman."
Knowing that she wasn't alone made a big difference. Through PARS, she worked with people who understood what she was going through - people who had worked with deportees in her exact situation. She says that was a huge weight off her shoulders, finding out that such a specific support network existed.
"Without them, there's no way that I'd be able to move towards my own personal goals. What I do now and in the future is a testament to what PARS does - and speaks volumes about how well they do it.
Most of all, she's grateful for their humanity. "They are so warm and welcoming. When I felt that quality, that was when I knew that things were going to be okay."
Philippa has some words of encouragement for anyone who might be in a similar position to her. "With PARS, you're all good - you're in safe hands. You don't have anything to worry about."
* not her real name