Beyond Reaf

This section contains student stories from the time of the Kosovo refugees, through the time of the Tampa boys, and the REAF students of today who want to share their experiences of life in New Zealand. The students have either been at Selwyn College, or REAF or both.



University of Canterbury will hear from Abbas Nazari, a UC Political Science postgraduate, currently studying International Relations. Nazari was only seven when he became one of 438 Afghan refugees at the centre of an international incident when the captain of the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa rescued them from a small distressed fishing vessel off the Australian coast.

Nazari will give his personal and academic perspective on the perilous risks people take reach to a place of refuge in a lecture on the 23rd March.This lecture shall also discuss New Zealand’s refugee policy amidst the global response, with experts from Red Cross and local refugee groups in attendance for the public Q&A session to follow.

UC Connect public lecture, The global refugee crisis and New Zealand’s role, 23 March, 7pm, Ilam campus of the University of Canterbury.

More from Abbas Nazari.


Peter Fang has given permission to reproduce his letter to Margaret Chittenden, the REAF Director. Peter has found a job and shares it with us all.

“Dear Margret,
Good morning!
I am Peter, the Chinese student in your class. I just want to tell you I have found a job which is selling cars. I have been doing this for three months. I’ve passed the trial period and become a permanent salesperson.

After leaving school, I had been looking very hardly for a job for a few months. During the first three months I got nothing. I applied a lot of positions such as factory hand, car groomer, delivery driver, dairy shop assistant etc. Most of the companies didn’t respond to me, but I got some answers like:” you are not the person that I want because you don’t have qualifications, you don’t have relative experience, your English is not good, you are too skinny for hard work …”

I was sad. Later, I asked myself, what can I do? No job for me? I don’t believe it. I thought about myself: I was a sales manager in China, I know how to handle people, I can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin, it is my strength. So I modified my CV and sent it to companies who want to do business with Chinese customers. I told them that I have sales experience, I can speak two main Chinese languages and English. I can easily build the relationships with customers which can help them to expand their business.

After that, I got five interviews. They were with Danske Mobler Furniture, Mitre 10, Placemakers and two car dealerships. I chose the car dealer which located in Glenfield on the North Shore. My boss is a Russia and he is an ambitious man who wanted to build a big business. He imports good- quality cars from Japan and sell on the lowest price. So I can make deals easily: I sold eight cars in the first month, ten cars in the second, and then fifteen the next month.

Finally, my boss said: “Peter, well done. You are doing well, you will be the best salesperson in Auckland.” I was very happy to hear that, it means I could stay and become a permanent staff member.

Now I have the confidence to tell you this news and express my gratitude to you. During the time I studied at REAF, I enjoyed it very much. The teachers there are wonderful, knowledgeable and friendly. Especially your class, it was interesting, not only just studying English, but also the traditions and histories of New Zealand. I miss you and classmates, … I will visit you when I get a Monday or Friday off.

I wish you all the best!
Peter Fang

The Tampa Story

Read the background story on the Tampa rescue, with an account of the horrific politics involved.
* Marr D., Wilkinson, M., Dark Victory,  Allen & Unwin, NSW, Australia, 2nd ed, 2005.
* Brennan, F., Tampering with Asylum, University of Queensland Press, 2003.
* Captain Drinnan gives a press release. 2015
* This week [3/7/15] the issue of the Tampa was discussed in a meeting. It was recommended that the book by Marr & Wilkinson, Dark Victory, provided an  overview of the Tampa event and those that followed. Recent events in the same part of the world has resulted in these Guardian articles.

Stories in 2014 involving families with Tampa links

A great success story. Nursing student Nida Alizadah is the first woman in her family to attend a tertiary institution.  She has been awarded a nursing scholarship.   The family has links with REAF as her father was a Tampa boy.   

Our history collection

1. This 2005 story shows some of the Tampa boys at their citizenship ceremony. 
2. A UNHCR article containing statistics relating to the Tampa event.
3. Life after the Tampa took a variety of turns for those who were invited to New Zealand.
4. They keep in touch with the captain of the Tampa.
5. Eventually their families joined them in New Zealand.
6. A documentary of their experience was created to celebrate the positive events since the Tampa.
7. A former Tampa asylum seeker comments on the current policy of the government regarding Sri Lankan boat people.
8. The Tampa 10 years on. This is an article from the Dominion Post of 2011.Together with a broadcast from Australia.
9. Another Tampa boy has a thriving new life. Abbas Nazari from Afghanistan who arrived in the country without being able to speak a word of English came third in a spelling bee just five years after arriving and is now studying political science and history so he can make a difference. 10. More people are contributing historical photos of the early days of the Tampa boys. 11. Transcripts from Australian interviews.12. A 2015 story of how this Tampa boy is doing in New Zealand. A member of the Tampa boys group tells how it has been for him since 2002. 
13. More media comment on the Tampathe event that will not die away.
14.  Sunday Herald Sun August 31, 2013. The Tampa children reflect on their rescue 12 years on. The article has a lovely photo of their rescuer, the captain of the MS Tampa, Arne Rinnan.
15. The Captain, crew and owners of the Tampa later won the Nansen Award for rescue at sea. 19/3/2002.
16. The Captain later commented on his frustrations of that time. SBS 3/9/13. 
17. Ali Hassaini welcomed his family through the New Zealand Red Cross Restoring Family Links programme . Ali was on the Tampa.
18. A Queenstown filmmaker plans to highlight New Zealand’s policy and treatment of refugees. Taking part will be Gul Agha Alizadah, an Afghan refugee and the son of one of the Tampa men who gained asylum in New Zealand under Helen Clark’s government.
19. Former “Tampa Boy”,  Zakaria Hazaranejad,  speaks out in support of Helen Clark’s bid to head the United Nations. He comments on what his time in New Zealand has done for him and other Tampa refugees.
20. 2016 news from Australia about Tampa families doing well and prospering.
21. The Tampa keeps on giving to the country. Omid Rafyee , a six year old when he was rescued is in his final year at Otago University  and will graduate with a BSc.

If you have any information or stories about the Tampa events and you would like to contribute to this record please mail Pat Northey.

From the Selwyn College Jubilee Book, 2006. 
“Mohammed Fayyaz and Abdulali Hossaini, both from the Tampa, attended the Global Young Leaders’ Conference in Washington and New York in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Bashir Rahimi was chosen as a deputy student president in February 2004. A young woman from the Tampa, Zahra Sarwari, who was 13 when she arrived in New Zealand, was interviewed by Cynthia Banham of the Sydney Morning Herald. In an article published on 26 August Zahra spoke of her regard for Arne Rinnan ‘who is on our tongues every time, every day in our minds’.
The Tampa students were lucky to have the support of Prime Minister Clark who visited them several times and gave them huge encouragement. Along with Rinnan she continues to occupy a place of high honour in their minds. Selwyn College feels privileged to have had the opportunity to start this significant group of young people on their New Zealand educational way. Abdulali Hossaini’s words are worth recording:
“On a more personal level, I believe we are the managers of our own life and we can manage it any form or shape that we want. All it takes is commitment and self-confidence. We might face lots of hardship in our lives but all we need is to fight, to believe and be strong because life is all about fighting for what we believe in. This is your own jihad. Dreams are also the most important factor in people’s lives. Life with no dreams is like waking up in the morning and not having a plan. The greater and higher we plan for our day the greater and higher we are by the end of that day.””