On Monday, the National led Government of Prime Minister John Key reached a decision to raise the quota of refugees that New Zealand will accept per annum. The decision comes after prolonged pressure from parties across Parliament, activist groups such as – but not limited to – Amnesty International, and individual campaigners. It comes as an international crisis caused by conflicts in the Middle East continues to escalate and force Western nations to face some harsh home truths about their foreign policy and how they view humanitarian crises.
So, what was the decision? It was to raise the refugee quota to a paltry 1000 per year, starting in 2018.
The Government has failed miserably. Not only have they decided to let New Zealand’s humanitarian reputation slide substantially by failing to double the quota, the Government has gone one step further and rubbed salt into the wounded reputation by refusing to start for another two years. Unable and/or unwilling to do anything bold or world leading, it has told the world that this is not the best New Zealand can do, but the best that New Zealand is willing to do.
New Zealand has a well run and funded refugee resettlement programme as even the Minister for Immigration, Nathan Guy admitted. Mr Guy, ironically in response to comments from A.C.T. leader David Seymour, told Parliament of visiting the Mangere refugee resettlement centre listening to refugees that had only arrived a couple of weeks ago singing a waiata – something some New Zealanders who have lived here all their lives have not done. These refugees know that they have been granted a second chance at life and they take opportunities with both hands. These are the people who will give back to the New Zealand economy and communities that they live in. The crime statistics for refugee communities in New Zealand are very low compared to others.
What is not acknowledged by the media, but which I would like to, is that the Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau rigorously check the backgrounds of refugees as part of the screening process. The United Nations vets them first and puts suitable refugees on a list for those that are okay to be resettled. New Zealand then does a secondary vetting, and issues appropriate Security Risk certificates. If ones background is found to be incomplete or raises questions, they may be deported from the country.
And it should be noted that refugees are quite a different category from asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are people claiming to be refugees, but whose legal status as such is not processed or is incomplete. A country where a person is seeking refugee status may be sent home if found to be an asylum seeker.
So, if we agree that all of the above is reasonable, what is the problem with doubling the quota Mr Key?