New refugee bill a chance for New Zealand to do its bit
The private members bill launched on Wednesday the 17th of June by Denise Roche of the Green Party is a chance for New Zealand to show it remains committed to helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Though the bill asks for the quota to increase from 750 to 1000 places, Doing Our Bit spokesperson Murdoch Stephens – who began a campaign asking for the quota to be doubled to 1500 places in 2013 – says that he supports the bill. “The important thing is that the bill goes before Parliament so the facts and the evidence of New Zealand’s contribution can be debated and assessed.”
“At some point in the last year, every single party represented in this Parliament except for National has publically stated that they’d like to see the quota grow. I know there are also National members of parliament who see that our population has grown by 40% since the last increase almost thirty years ago, and our ability to support refugees has also grown.”
In the past months there have been numerous other public calls for New Zealand to increase its annual refugee quota, from NGOs such as Amnesty International, the Red Cross, ActionStation, and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy. Both the NZ Herald and Dominion Post have run editorials supporting a doubling of the quota, while the Otago Daily Times, Christchurch Press and Marlborough Express have all stated that the quota should be increased.
When asked whether he thought the issue was only one for the partisan left or other opposition parties, Stephens adamantly disagreed.
“If Winston Peters can say that this is a humanitarian issue and the quota should grow, it is hardly of the left. If ACT’s David Seymour can state that the quota should grow based on population growth since 1987, it is hardly a partisan issue. If all parties allowed their MPs to vote their conscience on the matter, I am confident that the overwhelming evidence in favour of a quota increase would see the bill pass.”
Stephens agreed with Seymour that fairest way to set the new refugee quota would be to measure it against what we've done in the past
“While I understand the attraction of increasing the quota by a round number, I’d like to see the bill be based on fairness: that means making our intake equivalent to the 1987 quota increased by population inflation. It also means looking at making up for the 75% reduction in asylum seekers accepted by New Zealand since the turn of the millennium – the other method that refugees can enter the country.
“Increasing the quota to make up for the stagnation since 1987 and the decrease in accepted asylum seekers would see us increase the quota to 1497 places. Hence, doubling the quota in a careful and measured fashion – with appropriate concern for resettlement cities and an equivalent increase in resettlement funding – would truly see New Zealand making a stand for human rights.
“Doubling the quota would only be a radical gesture if our present hosting, which ranks us 87th per capita in the world, was at all adequate. When the facts and evidence are considered, doubling the quota is the least we can do for three decades of not only stagnation but significant cuts in the overall number of refugees accepted by New Zealand.”