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New Zealand Should Up Refugee Quota and Remove Barriers

New Zealand Should Increase Its Refugee Quota and Remove Racial Barriers

Syrian Solidarity New Zealand (SSNZ), with reservations, welcomes the recent government announcement to accept 50 Syrian refugees per year over the following two years within the existing refugee quota. However, New Zealand could be doing more to support the protection of Syrians if it removed its race-based barriers to Middle Eastern refugees and instead subscribed to the humanitarian priorities of the United Nations. SSNZ also urges New Zealand to increase its overall refugee settlement quota similar to that of other resettlement and asylum states.

We are greatly concerned that the offer of such a small number of places is the result of current government policy that takes a discriminatory approach towards refugees from the Middle East and Africa. We are also troubled at the New Zealand governments minimal commitment to New Zealand’s International Humanitarian obligations as reflected in New Zealand’s comparatively low and stagnant refugee quota.

Recently, the UN made an appeal to Western nations to take 30,000 Syrian refugees of the 2.3 million Syrians refugees in what is now being described as the greatest humanitarian crisis of our century by the United Nations. Many countries have pledged to help fulfil this quota with the USA welcoming several thousand, Germany committed to 10,000, and Moldova the poorest country in Europe and far smaller than New Zealand has accepted 50. Sweden, in addition to a quota of 1200, have offered unlimited asylum to Syrians who make it there. So far 23,000 have applied.

According to the UN Global Trends report, refugees in New Zealand make up only 1% of the population compared to a world average of 3.4% and our closest neighbour Australia 2.3%.

Irrespective of our refugee quota, being geographically remote means the pathway of asylum, which makes up a large proportion of the overall refugee intake for other countries, is largely absent in New Zealand. The only source of refugees in New Zealand is through the UN quota.

In 2009 the current New Zealand Government implemented a ban on new resettlement refugees coming from the Middle East and African countries. The decision to bring 50 Syrian refugees per year, over the next two years is granted as an exception to the regionally focused refugee policy of the National government. The government preference is for refugees from Asia and the Pacific and Syrians can only enter by way of this small number of places designated “emergency” places.

Picking and choosing where to take refugees from and making blanket exclusion of whole categories of refugee from Middle Eastern and African regions is contrary to International humanitarian policy and practice and the priorities of the United Nations. It also sends a very negative message to Middle Eastern and African Kiwi’s.

Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have borne the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis. The World Bank estimates that by the end of 2014 Lebanon, who has a comparable population to New Zealand, will be hosting refugees totalling 37% of the population. While New Zealand is geographically further away and largely protected from refugee movements it could be doing much more than 50 places a year to help alleviate both the suffering of Syrians and overstretched neighbouring countries.

We urge the New Zealand government to:

1. Reassess and increase NZ’s refugee quota in line with other countries so that New Zealand is carrying our fair share of the international humanitarian responsibility.

2. Immediately remove the policy that implements racial barriers to refugee resettlement in New Zealand. The main policy for resettlement must be the priority needs of refugees, as suggested by the UN, not a policy of racial preferences.

3. Create refugee pathways for Syrians who have family members in New Zealand and don’t qualify under regular refugee family reunification categories.

Syrian Solidarity wishes that the conflict in Syria comes to an end soon and that the Syrian people finally achieve the freedom, dignity and self determination they deserve. We thank everyone for their understanding and support.


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