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Kiwis Will Welcome Humanitarian Gesture, PM Says

Prime Minister Helen Clark says she doesn’t believe opposition to New Zealand’s offer to take on 150 of the Tampa boat people from National leader Jenny Shipley and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will resonate with New Zealanders.

“New Zealanders take a lot of pride in the humanitarian work we do,” Miss Clark said at today’s post-Cabinet press conference.

“I think its sad that the annual quota of 750 refugees is being attacked in this way,” she said.

Although the 150 boat people from the Norwegian freighter the Tampa, thought to be mainly Afghani, will be absorbed into the country’s annual quota of 750 refugees, Miss Clark said the Government reserves the right to review the quota in the future.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said that while the 150 boat people will be queue jumping, New Zealand can’t ignore the humanitarian crisis.

Mrs Dalziel said she expected most of the boat people would be judged genuine refugees.

Miss Clark said New Zealand was giving priority to women, children and family groups and would make up the 150 with others.

Families are the lowest risk group and the most likely to settle, she said.

Accepting the refugees comes at a $1.35m marginal cost to the immigration service, Miss Clark said.

Australia says New Zealand accepting a portion of the asylum seekers is helping the situation, not hindering it, the Prime Minister said.

Miss Clark said she was sending letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations saying the Government believes it is time for a fresh approach to the Afghanistan refugee problem, and that it was time the situation was given more urgency.

“It’s an International crisis and I don’t think its had the focus it deserves,” she said.

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