Asylum seekers deserve respect, dignity and compassion

The announcement that New Zealand will take 150 refugees per year from Australia’s offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea is good news for those refugees. They will be able to leave what the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called “harsh” conditions with a “lack of clear and effective processing arrangements for asylum-seekers”.

But, sadly, it’s only qualified good news, because we run the risk of creating the perverse result of encouraging people to take the extreme and very dangerous measure of seeking asylum in Australia by boat. There are 8000 people waiting to be processed in Indonesian refugee camps and only two UN officers processing applications. Because of this, so few people can be processed each year that wait times can potentially be as long as 76 years! No wonder people are getting on boats. New Zealand needs to be working regionally to speed up processing in countries such as Indonesia, and to take more refugees from the region.

The Government needs to make it clear that this agreement does not mean that we support Australia’s asylum seeker policy. It must be made plain that we expect our neighbours to take responsibility for the rights of asylum seekers rather than to hide them offshore, and to treat these people who have lived through such hardship with the dignity and compassion that they deserve.

The 150 refugees should be in addition to our annual quota of 750 refugees, not simply a part of it. New Zealand needs to continue to take refugees referred to it by the United Nations from all over the world, and we cannot remove ourselves from this obligation by taking the victims of Australian mistreatment.

Unfortunately, the Government appears to disagree. John Key has stated that his Government is considering sending asylum seekers that arrive in New Zealand to the Australian-run offshore detention centres. Today, I called on him to do his research and visit the centres himself to see the horrific conditions asylum seekers are forced to live in. Amnesty International has described conditions in the Nauru detention centre as “cruel, inhumane and degrading“, and this is not something that we should ever accept.

Former Immigration Minister Aussie Malcolm summed it up well when he said “Australia and Australia alone stands out from the rest of the world with arguments about queue jumpers and all sorts of populist jargon that actually hides racism, and now New Zealand has joined Australia it’s a tragedy

19 thoughts on “Asylum seekers deserve respect, dignity and compassion

  1. These invaders are illegal. Let’s follow Singapore’s example and give them a good caning before deportation.

    Another thing Jan, what is your ethnicity? It is very sad to see you describe yourself as ‘Tangata Tiriti’. That is a Maori expression. What is your REAL OWN ethnicity in your native tongue?

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  2. The only thing illegals seeking a suck on the New Zealand welfare tit need is to show them directly to the exit gate. If need be, with dignity and compassion. Quick smart, no detention centres, no iimigration bureaucrats or handwringing Greens required. You can call them boat people, asylum seekers or whatever the euphemism of the day is, the fact remains is that they are illegals, intent on residing here because of our soft immigration laws.

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  3. I may again be swimming against the tide here but this is a VERY dangerous policy issue for us and a very dangerous issue for the country.

    We run the risk of finding the limits of our social conscience as a nation and as a party. A society has the morality it can afford.

    REALLY tough calls have to be made, and our ability to accept refugees is impossibly limited compared to the supply of people who would come here if they could.

    The generous and benevolent impulses that drive us can betray us.

    The charge that this is “racism” is Bullshit.

    This will be about survival.

    Anyone who thinks that compassionate concessions come ahead of the survival of our nation has to think really seriously about what comes after that… after we are gone. Lifeboat ethics are about hard choices. Hard choices that NO human being should have to make, yet I see no way to avoid them. Is it better to die than to live with having made such choices? I know how the logic works. I am not sure I would be able to follow it.

    Australia is seeing some of those hard choices now… and while everyone is criticising nobody will help by relocating refugees to THEIR countries.

    Because everyone knows in their heart that this is not a solvable problem. They are happy to castigate Australia for keeping the refugees in camps but the alternative is an endless, overwhelming, stream of people. I have yet to see any OTHER alternatives on offer.

    Better we should work to reduce the SOURCES of refugees… the oppression and conditions in their home countries.

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  4. This is one of several contridictory policies within the Green Party. New Zealand Inc has enough problems as it is with budget deficits, without introducing further environmental and economic burden on the working population of New Zealand. I am a firm believer that nations create their own destiny, and in the case of NZ, we have the results of the last 170+ years of nation building – blood, sweat and taxes. What has the 3rd world been doing in the same period? In most instances it makes for pretty grim reading. It is not our responsibility to let them off the hook – “oh dear, you screwed up your own back yard. Never mind, welcome to ours”… Our human obligation is to help them (If they are willing and prepared to put in the hard years) to build their own nation like everyone else in the 1st world has had to do.

    This article highlights one of the many moral hazards associated with misplaced bleeding heart ideas:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/south-pacific/8218747/Row-leads-to-dolphin-slaughter

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  5. What has the 3rd world been doing over the last 170 years, Michael?
    Getting robbed by the 1st world.

    Maybe pick up a history book.

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  6. I think I ought to point out that a blog post isn’t a policy.

    This is a policy… and yes, I am talking to you Michael… the other two jerks don’t even warrant the respect of an answer.

    http://www.greens.org.nz/policy/immigration

    The advantages that NZ has are mostly that NZ is far enough away from everywhere that immigration was actually pretty damned difficult for most of its history… and other places beckoned. The world was neither as small nor as crowded then. By the time it got smaller and more crowded we had already developed sufficiently to have some defences. Protected by the Crown.

    In a word, lucky.

    So blaming other people for being LESS lucky as you just did, is remarkably useless. We aren’t here because we’re earned it in any particular way… we are here because we came up with a brass ring.

    “It is not our responsibility to let them off the hook”

    I differ… in several ways.

    First: Responsibility is something you TAKE.

    Second: We SHOULD take responsibility for helping our less fortunate neighbours to the extent we can afford.

    Third: We also have to take responsibility of deciding what that extent is.

    Fourth: The “hook” wasn’t something they got themselves onto by some failing of theirs. That hook was baited, cast, set and reeled in by people in more developed countries.

    Trying to get people to take responsibility in NZ is like trying to nail a Jellyfish to a tree.

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  7. BJ,

    Trying to get people to take responsibility in NZ is like trying to nail a Jellyfish to a tree.

    The Green party first responsibility is to the people of New Zealand.

    Kettle meet Pot.

    Is it in the best interest off New Zealand to take these, and hundreds more, people?

    Jan Logie says

    we expect our neighbours to take responsibility for the rights of asylum seekers rather than to hide them offshore, and to treat these people who have lived through such hardship with the dignity and compassion that they deserve.

    How is the Australians (and by inference New Zealands) responsibility to look after these people? Surely it is an international one and as such a UN problem.

    What are Jan Logies expectations of what these “camps” living standards should be like?

    As far as I can see they are being treated with “dignity and compassion”.

    What are Jan Logies (and by extension the Green party) expectations?

    Instant resettlement for all?

    In places that are already unable to feed their own people? For don’t we have (as claimed by by the Greens) 250K children living in poverty here in new Zealand?

    Should we not fix our own problems first before taking on the worlds problems?

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  8. Gerrit, as you note by your “helpful” fillng in of the blanks, Jan didn’t offer specifics. You should not try to fill in the blanks. I doubt that there IS any specific expectation here, apart from wanting Key to actually make a more detailed statement.

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  9. BJ,

    You should not try to fill in the blanks.

    Are we not allowed to question? What next, total subjugation? Do as I say, not as I do.

    Reminds me of the fracking debate.

    I doubt that there IS any specific expectation here, apart from wanting Key to actually make a more detailed statement.

    So the Greens want to the government to make a detailed statement but wont issue one themselves.

    Strange, almost (actual?) hypocritical.

    Boat people are que jumpers. Simple fact.

    If ALL the Indonesian asylum seekers came under the jurisdiction of the UN, then they can be resettled in places like India, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, even Chile, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

    Each state would take according to their ability to integrate the asylum seekers into their society.

    That is what the Green position should be.

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  10. Metiria Turei said in an interview to TV1 News “New Zealand doesn’t want any part of detention camps” or words to that effect. “New Zealand”? I think she means “The Greens”, as she does not speak for New Zealand on this or any other matter.

    What Australia is doing is eminently sensible. They would be well within their rights to turn every single illegal immigrant around immediately.
    Which is what New Zealand should do. We have our quota, which is generous given our size.

    The only long-term “solution” to this problem is to work together as an international community to make things better in their home countries, not encourage more of it with weak entry criteria.

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  11. This is a policy… and yes, I am talking to you Michael… the other two jerks don’t even warrant the respect of an answer.

    I’d like to think this is not how we discuss things in the Green Party. I am well aware of the Green Party immigration policy, and like most party members (and all of the honest ones) I disagree with some policies.

    Supporting 3rd world development is an issue that anyone can get involved with – without government intevention – by putting up their own money to back one of the many NGO’s working in this area – as I do. My experience has been that this is a big “sop sop bleeding heart” attracted cause ie: one that the loudest whiners expect others to fix while they do little, if anything, tangible. When it comes to putting up for anything, most people, including the bleeding heart brigade, are often very capitalist and self centred in their actions.

    Coming from a background of years of financially supporting development within 3rd world countries – I have often questioned whether I am really helping them and what the unintended consequences might be. I long ago came to the realisation things are far from back and white.

    This is why I am very suspicious of anyone who jumps up and down demanding “let’s fix it”, and “let’s throw money at it” and any other trite sentiments.

    The only true measure of the courage of someone’s convictions is what they will do off their own bat without external aid (from the taxpayer), and so far, I have heard nothing from Jan Logie on this account.

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  12. ummm, the Green Party is a Parliamentary Political Party not an NGO, and as such policy is by definition collective and governmental. If you want to make a personal contribution Michael then that is all good, but that your business and really nothing to do with the Party.

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  13. The only long-term “solution” to this problem is to work together as an international community to make things better in their home countries, not encourage more of it with weak entry criteria.

    Arana pretty much nails it.

    Helping countries establish better internal governance and institutions is probably the most important (and cost effective) thing NZ can do.

    We are a minnow in world affairs and can’t afford much in terms of direct intervention – which also tends to result in an unintended paternalistic effects – but we have solid history in helping countries getting their internal affairs sorted out through offering sound advice, expertise and training; something that is assisted but the perception (though not necessarily the reality) that NZ is non-aligned.

    This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t fulfill our international humanitarian obligations but as others have pointed out, charity must start at home.

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  14. What are Jan Logies (and by extension the Green party) expectations?

    Instant resettlement for all?

    —-

    Are we not allowed to question? What next, total subjugation? Do as I say, not as I do.

    Gerrit, the FIRST part was a question. The SECOND part is a suggestion of what the answer is. So your reference to “total subjugation” isn’t exactly warranted. You would have done well with just the question.

    I LIKED the question. Wondering about it myself. Not YOUR answer to it.

    Fair enough?

    BJ

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  15. Michael – I jumped on you because you made an argument that basically we deserve our success and that other people and their nations have failed because they haven’t worked as hard as we have for it. That argument is not useful, and has never had any validity with me.

    Some of the inequality we have across the globe may be necessary, as in “civilization won’t survive unless we allow some people to perish”. I can’t like that. I don’t like that… and the argument that even if we live at that price civilization will have perished anyway has some merit… but overpopulation is the deadly trap Mother Nature places at the feet of all successful species.

    Logically the allocation of places in the lifeboat remains a matter of available places vs the number of people needing to be saved, and people who are not in the lifeboat cannot be allowed in the lifeboat lest it be destroyed and all perish equally. That is a form of equality to avoid.

    ALL that can be true and the notion that a place in the lifeboat is ours because we somehow “earned” it remain false.

    That place is allocated for the most part, by blind luck. The same can be said to a lesser degree about wealth inequality. Blind luck plays the largest role.

    Nations are the lifeboats, and some are sinking, often from the number of people in them already…

    I don’t try to justify my place or my children’s in this lifeboat/nation of New Zealand. It is mostly luck. I don’t want anyone to suffer, no matter what nationality they are. I would love to be able to welcome everyone and have enough for all to share. The real world doesn’t work that way. You KNOW this… so accept it, accept that we are lucky, and don’t try to paint the people who are attempting to get here as being somehow unworthy. Maybe it makes it easier to take in some way… I’ve never been a big fan of sugar coating bad news.

    So how many CAN we take? What is our capacity as an Island, and as a Nation? Not answered yet. More than we have so far, is I think an easy enough guess.

    The point to my position here is that the detention camps may be horrible and yet be better than the alternatives for some of these people. They may be “unjust” but yet be better than the alternative of allowing nations to be overwhelmed. Thinking about the unthinkable is bad and ugly enough. Lying to myself about why something bad may have to be done so that something worse doesn’t happen… isn’t necessary. I am not one to lie to myself.

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  16. “don’t try to paint the people who are attempting to get here as being somehow unworthy”

    People that attempt to get to New Zealand by foul means such as boarding boats through paying criminals for their passage, or via use of often false documentation flushed down the loo prior to entry are definitely in my view unworthy, deserving to be exported on the first available transport back to origin. No hand wringing over state of detention centres required.

    Mr Chip, you may play the man whilst attempting to spin your party line, but a fair few of the commenters above seem to feel the same way, in that they too do not want a bar of people attempting entry by illegal means. As a country we do meet our obligations for those that arrive utilising legal methods.

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  17. Thanks everyone for your comments. Just to clarify the Green party has long been requesting NZ to meet our quota of 750 refugees a year, which we haven’t met for many years, and gradually increase the quota to 1000 pa.

    The refugee convention was set up after WWII when the world recognised the dire consequences of people not being able to seek refuge outside of their country. That is tragically just as relevant today as it was then.

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  18. The “boat people” issue is a racist hoax/farce being played by a very very cynical prime minister.

    Desperate refugees on leaky dodgy boats are not adding 9500 kilometers or more to their already dangerous and fraught journeys. They are not going to attempt a trip to a fairly small land mass about 20 TIMES the distance away.

    When Australia starts shooting the boat people on its beaches then they might look at trying to sail here ….

    But Keys and the Nats spin is just a racist dog whistle to distract from the real issues and deal making .

    I think we should reflect back to what happened to the jewish refugees who tried to leave Germany prior to world war 2 and were turned back by many countries. What was their fate ???

    Theres been a distinct lack of humanity from many in this thread ….

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  19. @pmofnz

    Just what are you trying to say? That people should die at home rather than attempt to escape that fate? That they are somehow evil because of their desperation? For that is the implication of your words as I read them.

    I have pointed out that there are not GOOD answers, only bad or worse answers and that NZ cannot afford to ignore this issue and cannot afford to accept illegal entrants into the country. That was my clear meaning above.

    That does not however require in any way that I think LESS of these people for their efforts to come here or the plight in which they find themselves in the nation they have quit.

    Some people in this thread are keen to argue and prove that they are somehow better than those people who risk everything to come here. It eases the guilt about the fact that we HAVE to push them off to a refugee camp and conditions little better than a prison. It eases the guilt about being more fortunate than they, for no reason. Just luck.

    Yet there really is NO reason, and to pretend there is is a lie.

    Looking at your initial comment on this thread you also attribute to these people some sort of broken work ethic…

    “seeking a suck on the New Zealand welfare tit”

    .

    Your need to somehow make it “right” that you have so much more than they do is pretty clear. It is a fairly common form of self-justification on the right. The reality is “There but for the grace of god go I”.

    Sh!t… I almost forgot. I’m an Atheist :-)

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