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ACT Opposes Selecting Queue Jumpers

Saturday 16 Feb 2002

Helen Clark's proposal that New Zealand's refugee quota be filled by people who have queue-jumped the system by travelling by boat to Indonesia, is reckless, ACT leader Richard Prebble says.

"It may be good politics but it's bad government to select New Zealand's refugee quota from those who have deliberately queue-jumped the United Nations' system," Mr Prebble said.

"What message does it send to the tens of thousands of people in UN refugee camps when the New Zealand government says it will not select those in the camps but will reward those who've queue-jumped?

"Put bluntly, it's an incentive for refugees to become boat people.

"Helen Clark makes a virtue of the fact that, in her words, the government has "absolute discretion" in the selection of refugees - which is another way of saying that successive governments have failed to set out a principled framework for selecting refugees.

"Successive governments have based their selection policies on short-term politics, choosing refugees from whoever was on TV at the time. So today it's boat people, in past years it's been Somalis, Cambodians etc, according to whoever was on our TV screens.

"I've consistently argued that the government should acknowledge that admitting refugees has long-term implications. Refugees, their families and those who will later be admitted on the basis of family reunification, will be long-term residents of New Zealand.

"Selecting queue-jumpers will result in New Zealand taxpayers having to pick up the bill for health, education and welfare, in some case for generations.

"It is absurd for the Prime Minister to claim that the queue-jumpers in Indonesia have a greater humanitarian claim on the 750 available places than the other estimated 20 million genuine refugees around the world.

"I believe the government should take a long-term view on refugee selection. Factors such as the ability of a refugee family to become a self-sufficient economic unit, able to make a contribution to New Zealand society, should be given significant weighting.

"What we shouldn't do is play the short-term politics of the Labour/Alliance coalition.


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