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National considers future immigration Policy

National considers future directions for immigration

A tighter focus on ‘net benefit to New Zealand’ is the theme of a discussion paper released by National’s Immigration spokesperson, Murray McCully, today.

The paper is an early component in the policy formulation process for the Party.

The paper proposes a more formal immigration plan to be adopted by the Government annually, more opportunity for public input, and the amalgamation of Immigration, the citizenship function within Internal Affairs, and Ethnic Affairs. It proposes a long-range target of an annual immigration rate equal to 1% of the population, in contrast to over 52,000 new immigrants last year.

Mr McCully says the split in the Government’s Immigration programme for 2002-2003 of 60% skilled/business, 30% family and 10% international/humanitarian “needs changing if New Zealand is serious about returning to the top half of the OECD”.

His paper advocates lifting the skilled/business category to over 70%, with the other two categories reducing accordingly.

The paper calls for priority in the family category to go to applicants “who are able to commit to supporting themselves or who are able to be fully sponsored by family members”. Those sponsorship arrangements should be strictly enforced.

He says that, apart from refugees, welfare benefits should not be available to new immigrants for at least two years (currently they are accessible on the basis of hardship). The paper opposes the establishment of new immigration quotas for Pacific nations under the Pacific Access category and calls for a review of the Samoan quota.

Mr McCully says the number of refugees should be reduced by dropping the refugee quota from 750 to 500. Last year, over 1300 refugees were accepted (quota plus spontaneous refugees) and the Government has introduced a quota for 300 family members of refugees.

The paper also calls for legislation to reverse a recent Court judgement restricting the ability of authorities to detain asylum seekers. It proposes resettlement grants, modelled on Australian and United Kingdom grants, for asylum seekers who return home without exhausting an expensive legal process.

“I believe that a more open and coherent immigration planning process, with more opportunity for public debate, would be consistent with positive attitudes to immigration. The long-range target of an annual immigration rate equal to 1% of the population, which is the Canadian approach, is being proposed for serious discussion.

“The paper unashamedly calls for a clearer focus on adding value to the New Zealand economy in our immigration programmes, and seeks to reduce costs to New Zealand through tighter sponsorship requirements in relation to family applicants, and making new immigrants ineligible for welfare,” says Mr McCully.

He says the paper is being used as a basis for securing feedback and discussion as part of the National Party’s policy formulation process.

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