Refugee quota in­crease a ‘pal­try’ re­sponse

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - GOR­DON CAMP­BELL Talk­ing Pol­i­tics

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.

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