Less is more when it comes to Refugees

05062015. Credit: Adam Dudding/Fairfax NZ
Adult classes at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, where newly arrived refugees are schooled in the nuts and bolts of becoming a new New Zealander.

New Zealand does a very good job helping refugees settle into New Zealand life. We provide them with everything they need. For those who feel that it is important that tiny little New Zealand does its bit to help people fleeing war we are doing our part and we are doing it well. We are able to provide an excellent refugee service because we have kept their numbers low. Helping refugees is an emotional, not a practical decision. The reality is that most of them are unlikely to contribute financially to our economy and will remain a drain on the New Zealand taxpayer for most if not all of their lives. When we take on people who are likely to be a net drain on our society it is wise to limit how many we take.

The opinion piece on Stuff about our refugee intake is long on emotion and short on practicality.

OPINION: No one need doubt immigration will be a key election issue.

It has already been a touchstone of many campaigns internationally, and here the parties are wrestling with how to handle record net migration that hit 73,000.

Should we turn down the tap – and where? And do businesses need migrant labour or are they using it to depress wages?

…But sky-high immigration, and the arguments around it, have overshadowed what has become an orphan policy – our shameful record on refugees.

While we have a proud record on resettlement, we fall down very badly on the raw numbers we take in.

…At present we accept 750 refugees a year, a number that has not changed for 30 years. National would increase that to 1000 next year and take 600 more over time as our contribution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria…

Labour would increase the refugee quota to 1500 and the Greens to 5000 in six years with another 1000 covered by private sponsorships, an idea used successfully in Canada.

The Opportunities Party’s Gareth Morgan has plumped for 2000, with another 3000 sponsored.

Even NZ First would contemplate an increase to 1200 or maybe 1500, leader Winston Peters said. But first it would want to see migrant numbers radically reduced to 10,000 highly skilled immigrants.

Peters would want those migrants checked, and require that they “sign up to our flag, our laws, our values, the belief in the rights of other religions to exist and respect the equality of women”.

Without those five things, “they can naff off”.

…Peters argues that the likes of Amnesty International, which has been highly critical of New Zealand’s intake, did not take into account the seasonal Pacific regional employment scheme, which he says is “a form of serious refugee aid”. Nor did it take account of total foreign aid or our role in the Pacific.

Amnesty paints this country in a very bad light. It calculates we take roughly 0.3 refugees for every 1000 of our population.

…the UK takes 1.83, and even Australia – with its widely derided island detention policy – takes 1.51.

Perhaps Canada is the fairest comparison; a wealthy nation, distant from the sources of refugees, surrounded by a cold ocean. It takes 4.28 per 1000, equivalent to 14,000 in New Zealand.

A weekend conference at Otago University’s Foreign Policy School in Dunedin…did highlight some of the moral and humanitarian issues at the heart of the refugee crisis worldwide, including the need to put human rights ahead of a bloodless discussion of refugee “flows”. In short, to help, not blame, the victims.

But it also brought into sharp relief Australia’s refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer of four years’ standing to resettle 150 refugees from its Manus Island and Nauru camps.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has argued that accepting the offer would encourage more people smuggling, and more asylum seekers to board boats.

…people had paid money to smugglers who had said they would put them on boats “and in some cases they were told you will be on a boat to New Zealand”.

So if people were able to come to Australia or New Zealand the smugglers would argue they had kept their side of the bargain.

They could say: “OK, it took you a few years but you got there. So don’t go to UNHCR, don’t apply for resettlement through the UN system, get on the boat that we will provide to you and you’ll get to New Zealand or Australia.”

…If we, Australia and the broader region can’t take in more of them, the least we can do is collectively address the causes of human trafficking – or ensure they don’t drown.

 – Stuff


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