Setting New Zealanders straight on refugees

Yesterday in Parliament, Amnesty International made its submission in support of the refugee quota being raised to 1,500 which would be a 100% increase on our current quota. Although many politicians are in support of the increase, it seems that the people of New Zealand are not so sure and because of that the facts need to be laid down so that the fiction, the misleading agenda’s of some groups and the paranoia can be cast aside.

There is a clear cut difference between a refugee and a migrant. A migrant chose to leave a country because they perceive the quality of life and the opportunities to be greater somewhere else. A refugee is forced to leave for any one of  a number of reasons, including but not restricted to:

  • Natural disaster renders where they live uninhabitable and there is either nowhere for them to go; they suffer trauma that makes returning impossible
  • War – the trauma of seeing towns and people under attack, people dying; not safe for them to live there in a political or military sense
  • Famine – could be caused by drought, war, poor governance or economic collapse or a combination thereof

Not all refugees leave their country of origin. Some are displaced within and stay in places like temporary shelters. A good example of this is the British island of Montserrat in the Caribbean where a volcano began erupting in the late 1990’s. Sporadic and occasionally lethal eruptions have displaced much of the population and destroyed the capital of Plymouth. The island’s small size and the unpredictable nature of the volcano mean much of it is uninhabitable. Most people live in shelters, hoping that the volcano will settle down or are unable to afford to move overseas.

A refugee is different from an asylum seeker. An asylum seeker is someone who is being harassed by an organization or the Government of their nation of origin. Asylum seekers and refugees might not arrive with much more than the clothes on their back. Because of the persecution that forced them to leave, it is highly unlikely that they will have proper documentation, since New Zealand will not likely have proper diplomatic  representation with that country to enable their preparation. Asylum seekers are nothing new. In fact the first records of people fleeing because of persecution are over 3,500 years old.

There are many myths about refugees and asylum seekers. Some of them are deliberately manufactured for the purpose of achieving an agenda. Some are misinterpreted facts and some are simply ignorance of the reality.

One of the major misunderstandings is the idea that these are all migrants under another name. This is simply not true, as migrants move out of convenience to places where they perceive opportunities to be better. Refugees and asylum seekers move because their immediate physical well being is at an unacceptable risk.

Another is that they will take jobs. Again, this is not true. Many actually want to go back to their countries of origin when it is safe to do. The ones that stay here long term are those who have nothing to go back to, or the danger that made them leave is unlikely to reduce to an acceptable level in their lifetimes. They will need support finding work and somewhere to live, but 1,500 refugees compared to 4.5 million people who call themselves New Zealanders is only 0.33% of New Zealanders total population.

I think we can manage 1,500 refugees somehow. If we cannot, we have a MAJOR problem.



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