Minister for Immigration Michael Woodhouse announced this week that the government will put off increasing the refugee quota to 1000 places until 2018. It’s a shameful decision that undermines the Government’s claim that it takes its international humanitarian obligations seriously, right before we celebrate World Refugee Day on the 20th June.
The Green Party, like tens of thousands of ordinary Kiwis, churches and support services organisations, think we could do much better than that – especially since there are about 60 million displaced people in the world at the moment, the most since World War 2.
NZ’s refugee quota has remained at 750 places since 1987. During the three decades since then, our population has increased by 43 percent. As a result the number of refugees we take per capita has put us at the bottom of the range of countries taking them – at about 90th place.
The Minister constantly refutes this by saying that New Zealand’s ranking on refugee settlement is “7th in the world”, indulging in number-fudging and semantics to mislead the public. His ranking is based on the Government’s insistence that there is a meaningful difference between ‘quota’ and ‘convention’ refugees. In many cases, however, people who fall into those two groups are fleeing the same desperate situation for the same reasons. We are taking refugees from Syria under our quota. Other countries are taking Syrian asylum seekers who arrive at the border as ‘convention refugees’. They all need protection, regardless of how they arrived.
By the Government’s calculation, New Zealand is doing better on resettlement than Germany, who were on course to accept one million refugees at the end of 2015.
The small increase in our quota will of course make a huge difference to those refugees who desperately need a safe haven. But we could be doing so much more. We could be more ambitious and double the quota to 1500 places.
As Murdoch Stephen’s from Doing Our Bit said in his opinion piece on Monday:
The campaign to double New Zealand’s refugee quota was never to become a world leader. It was just to lift ourselves off the bottom of the list. No-one argues we should match the Swedes and increase our quota 80-fold. We should just be doing our bit.