I’m really proud that yesterday, on World Refugee Day, the Greens launched an ambitious plan to increase the refugee quota to 5000 over the next six years. Of those places, 4,000 will be directly resettled by the government and another 1,000 will be community sponsored placements – replicating a very successful programme that has been run in Canada for over 30 years. We want to do this because it is the right thing to do.
And I’m also really saddened by some responses that suggest that by increasing our refugee quota we ignore the suffering of the people who already live here – the homelessness, poverty, our shocking youth suicide statistics and more. And, truly, that is not what we intend to do.
The Green Party have solutions for these problems. We know we can address homelessness by providing secure warm healthy homes; we can lift people out of poverty by ensuring they have incomes they can live on; we can invest in our young people so that they know that they are cared for and that they have a future. We can ensure that everyone can access proper mental health services by restoring funding to the public health system. These solutions simply require a government that is willing to prioritise them and that hasn’t happened over the last eight years.
We can do all that and also address climate change and protect our environment and ensure our rivers are safe to swim in. We can do all that AND offer a safe haven for 5000 people out of the 60 million in the world who have fled persecution and war so they can make a decent life for themselves. For a compassionate and competent government it is not an either/or situation.
We can and should reject the narrative that suggests that by lifting someone up we have to take away from someone else. We have to ensure that resources are shared fairly – because when a few have plenty and others have very little, we create disconnected and unsafe communities.
We have to stop scapegoating others and fighting amongst ourselves. In my last blog I talked about how pitting workers against the unemployed, and migrants against low paid workers, is a classic divide and conquer strategy. Refugees are not to blame for the housing crisis, or congested roads, or a failing health system – those failures rest at the feet of this government.
New Zealanders are a fair-minded and compassionate people. We can open our hearts and offer refuge in our communities to people who are suffering. With over 65 million displaced people around the world increasing our refugee quota to 5000 per year is just a drop in the bucket. But it will make a huge difference for those 5000 people. In many cases it may be the difference between life and death and we can be proud of doing our bit.