Refugee quota increase a ‘paltry’ response
Decades ago, the indifference to Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution became the driving force behind the creation of the UN Refugee Convention.
It’s a charter that expressed the world’s determination that the plight of refugees should never again be met with apathy and have such a disastrous outcome.
Over time, that resolve has weakened. Last week, New Zealand made a paltry response to the global refugee crisis by announcing it would be adding 250 places to its annual intake of 750 refugees.
To his credit, even United Future leader Peter Dunne dubbed this response as ‘miserly’. The quota change will begin in 2018, after our recent special intake of 600 Syrian refugees, spread over two and a half years, has been cleared.
Do the math. This increase means that the new intake of 1000 from 2018 will be virtually the same as now, once you’ve added 2016’s share of the Syrian special intake to the current 750.
Arguably, we’re going backwards. On a population basis, we are taking in fewer refugees now than when the UN quota was introduced in 1987.
Comparable countries are doing more. Australia is taking in three times more refugees than we are, per capita. Between last November and March, Canada accepted a massive intake of 26,000 Syrian refugees, including 10,000 resettled via a privatecommunity partnership scheme.
By contrast , New Zealand will take until 2018 to set up a pilot programme for only 25 refugees that will be similarly reliant on community support.
Do we really need two years’ preparation to create a support system for 25 people? That run-in time makes a mockery of Kiwi ‘can do’ ingenuity and our usual readiness to assist the needy.
To cap things off, Act Party leader David Seymour – in a piece of patriotic grandstanding straight out of the Donald Trump playbook– has called for refugees to be compelled to sign a pledge of loyalty to New Zealand values before gaining admittance here.
Evidently, the government has made a political calculation that helping refugees would be unpopular with middle New Zealand. This seems debatable, given the outpouring of national pride when the previous government took in the Tampa boat refugees back in 2001.
Are we a miserly people ... resentful of families fleeing from a war zone who may require our assistance?
If, as Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse claimed last week, the educational and employment outcomes of refugees are below par, this could well be a reflection of the limited assistance New Zealand provides to resettle those families.
Other countries offer far more extensive support. By contrast, the small numbers allowed into this country under our family reunification scheme have to pay 100 per cent of the costs involved.
In the end, it comes down to the image New Zealand has of itself. Are we are a generous country willing to share our good fortune with those in need?
Or are we a miserly people fearful of outsiders and resentful of families fleeing from a war zone who may require our assistance? Currently, the Government appears to be playing to the latter, less flattering perception of who we are.