Jan Logie

John Key and NZ’s refugee obligation

by Jan Logie

Over the last few days, we’ve heard a number of statements from the Prime Minister relating to the decision to take 150 refugees per year from Australian offshore detention centres and the proposal for New Zealand to process asylum seekers arriving here at those same centres.

John Key: “One, We don’t take more people, two I’m pretty ambivalent about where they come from.”

This comment suggests a complete ignorance of the reality of refugee camps and processing challenges. In 2009: “UN figures show that there are over 42 million ‘people of concern’ in the world, including more that 15 million refugees. The UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) has the capacity to ‘recognise’ around 850,000, ‘refer’ around 120,000 and then ‘resettle’ around 70,000 – making a refugee’s chance of ever being resettled less than 1 in 214.” I’ve been told this has not improved much since these figures came out.

Taking 150 from within our existing quota (part of the UN’s 70,000) from the Australian detention centres rather than any other camp will do nothing to reduce the drivers that actually lead people to take the extreme risk of taking a boat to Australia.

The average waiting time for resettlement, in the official Indonesian camps, will still be over 70 years. Only 70 places are offered a year from those camps holding over 8000 people. I do hope we’re not reducing the number of refugees we take from official camps due to this deal because that may well increase the incentive for people to take to the sea.

John Key: “The best way to stop boats coming was to intercept them before they left their country of origin, We can’t do much when they are on the water.”

If John Key wants to intercept people before they leave their country of origin then he will need to resolve the reasons people become so desperate to escape their home lands of West Papua, Afghanistan, Burma  etc.  I would like to see this as part of our policy but I think it might be a pretty big job.

John Key: “The deal would also stop the situation where a boat turned up in Australia heading for this country and Australia shepherded it across the Tasman.”

Surely if the Australian government was planning to shepherd boats across to New Zealand – through treacherous waters – there would be an international incident. Look at these boats, look at a map, and consider the types of water and tell me this is actually a reality.

You might suggest they take a bigger boat, because actually they’d have to to make it with a large number of people. The problem with this is, the cost of the boat which will almost inevitably be confiscated on arrival would make the entire venture uneconomical. It did happen in Canada, as we’re repeatedly told, but this was funded by a wealthy ethnic population that just does not exist in New Zealand. Sadly most communities of people who arrived as refugees in this country are still living on very low incomes.

John Key: “I haven’t inspected the camps obviously but I accept the Prime Minister at her word. It is our expectation that the camps would be at the world standard we would expect from a developed economy like Australia.”

Well, here’s a couple of pictures of their camps. The first is from Nauru and the second from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. That photo shows the family prefab with no doors and no windows in an area with high levels of mosquito borne illnesses. Australia is the only Western country to lock up refugees in detention camps.

A picture tells a thousand words.

Published in Justice & Democracy | Society & Culture by Jan Logie on Wed, February 13th, 2013   

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