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NZ's Commitment to Refugees Should be Strengthened

NZ's commitment to refugees should be strengthened, not weakened

New Zealand should be proud of its contribution to protecting people against political imprisonment, torture and killings through its acceptance of refugees, Amnesty International said today, and rejected calls for the number to be reduced.

Commenting on discussion in Parliament yesterday of an Immigration Service report on the experience of refugees in New Zealand, Amnesty International New Zealand's director Ced Simpson said the report gave New Zealand the basis for developing a more effective welcome for those fleeing persecution.

"But the number we accept is very small compared with the estimated 20 million refugees in the world," he said.

Each year New Zealand accepts up to 750 refugees under a quota arrangement with the UN refugee agency plus those confirmed refugees who reach New Zealand through their own ingenuity as asylum-seekers.

During any discussion of New Zealand's refugee policy MPs should work together to ensure that New Zealand's traditional commitment to those fleeing persecution was enhanced, not diminished, Mr Simpson said.

"That would be a fitting welcome to the Von Trapp Children as they prepare to tour New Zealand next month," Mr Simpson said in a reference to the descendants of the famous singing family depicted fleeing persecution in Nazi-occupied Austria and taking refuge in Switzerland in the film The Sound of Music.

The Refugee Convention, under which New Zealand protects those in danger of serious human rights violations, was adopted in 1951 following international concern about the plight of refugees in the aftermath of WW2.

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