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Woodhouse signs on to refugee misinformation campaign

Woodhouse signs on to refugee misinformation campaign

The Minister of Immigration continues to mess up the statistics around New Zealand’s contribution to the international community.

“The Minister wants the feel-good notion that New Zealand is doing our bit internationally, while not actually being prepared to do anything,” said Murdoch Stephens, co-ordinator of Doing Our Bit, a campaign to double New Zealand’s UNHCR quota. “He claims we’re sixth in the world in one category of refugee settlement, while ignoring the more much more common category.”

Michael Woodhouse makes the claim that New Zealand is sixth equal in our UNHCR resettlement quota. For example, in 2011 New Zealand settled 457 refugees via the UNHCR resettlement system compared to the United Kingdom’s 430.

The UNHCR quota system is by far the smallest manner in which most refugees are settled. Most refugees are settled via being assessed as asylum seekers. Of the 159 countries that settle refugees (according to the latest UNHCR statistics), only twenty-six use the system that Woodhouse prefers to focus on, with fifteen of those in the process of rolling it out.

In 2011, New Zealand settled 85 refugees in this manner compared with the United Kingdom’s 12202.

If all refugees of concern to the UNHCR are measured, New Zealand is not pulling its weight. Our company in terms of accommodating refugees is Hungary, Tajikistan, Poland and Malawi. The world average is 3.4 times, per capita, more than New Zealand takes.

“In June the government passed a law to mandatorily detain legal asylum seekers coming into New Zealand. When Australia passed detention legislation last year they doubled their UNHCR resettlement quota,” says Stephens.

Australia’s total refugee quota is now twenty thousand people per year. By contrast this year was the first since 2008 that New Zealand has reached its quota of 750 and we receive on average 100 extra as asylum seekers. In February a NZ Herald editorial reported that Australia takes five times more refugees  than New Zealand per capita.

New Zealand has the capacity to do more. Over the last week the government has highlighted several statistics via social media that show our country is only behind Australia in the OECD in terms of GDP growth and unemployment.

“I’m not suggesting we become a world leader in resettlement as the Minister incorrectly claims that we are,” says Stephens. “If we double the quota and the funding for it, then we’re not quite at the world average but we’re getting closer.”

Woodhouse also claims that $58m a year is spent on refugees, despite the appropriations in the budget listing the expenditure as $16m and his own office claiming it would cost $16m a year to double the quota.

The Labour Party’s position is to review their refugee policy, while the Greens have a policy of supporting an increase to 1000, though their Immigration spokesperson has blogged in support of the campaign to double the quota.


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