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Government Making Refugee Policy On The Run

ACT leader Richard Prebble says he's concerned the government is continuing to make refugee policy in an ad hoc way while on tour overseas.

"It appears Helen Clark at CHOGM has committed New Zealand to taking refugees from Nauru. And Phil Goff, while in Indonesia, has agreed to take 200 refugees from camps in that country.

"Successive governments see refugees as a way to score political points rather than having a long-term, principled policy. The refugees that our government Ministers agree to accept in five minutes, become a lifetime commitment for the New Zealand taxpayer.

"In many cases, the refugees are queue jumpers. The government says it wants to discourage people-smuggling yet rewards the activity by taking refugees who paid the people-smugglers in the first place.

"It's time the New Zealand government set out some sensible principles for selecting refugees. Helen Clark seems to think the only policy is the annual quota - and after that, refugee admission is her personal decision. She's prepared to give entry to New Zealand just to get a headline.

"As there are 20 million refugees in the world, according to the United Nations, New Zealand will have to become selective. Surely a principled policy is not to select queue jumpers, or people who will have enormous difficulty becoming productive members of New Zealand society. There are refugees who have skills we need in New Zealand, who would make a positive contribution to the country.

"It's time we had a consistent immigration and refugee policy. We select immigrants on the basis of skills. Why not have the same criteria for refugees?

"It's time Clark and Goff were upfront with the public. The announcements made at the weekend could cost the country millions of dollars in health, education and welfare expenditure for years to come.

"It's no way to decide refugee policy," Mr Prebble said.


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