by Jan Logie
Yesterday Changemakers Refugee Forum released a report highlighting the denial of support to convention refugees. I am stoked they’ve done this. They’ve explained the issue in a way that is so easy to understand and makes the injustice and nonsense of it so clear.
Almost all refugees start out as asylum seekers, but some find asylum and get refugee status in places with overwhelming numbers of refugees and end up in refugee camps and then have to get resettled in a third country through the UN quota system. Quota refugees account for about 1% of the world’s refugees.
New Zealand only takes up to 750 quota refugees every year and we’ve made it pretty tough for people to seek asylum (to become convention refugees) at the border here. Only around 100 a year are now granted refugee status within New Zealand. This is compared to 1.3 million people from Syria who have found refuge in Lebanon.
The National government has made a distinction between convention and quota refugees even though they are considered equal under the UN Refugee Convention.
In New Zealand convention refugees can’t access education, full healthcare, or main welfare benefits until they gain full residency, which can take years.
In response to the report yesterday which clearly outlines the impacts of this policy a spokesperson for the Minister of Immigration said the government will consider extending its resettlement services to convention refugees in the future. This is disingenuous. This government cut funding to convention refugees and made a policy decision to exclude them from the development of the refugee strategy.
I have raised concerns with the Minister as have all the organisations working in this area.
The Minister can’t just say he’ll consider it in the future. He needs to either rectify it as fast as is possible or at least be honest and front up and try to justify his discrimination.