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Here are the Facts, Prime Minister

Here are the Facts, Prime Minister
By Tracey Barnett

The following misinformation was said by the Prime Minister in his interview with Paul Henry this morning, cites Tracey Barnett, founder of the refugee awareness initiative WagePeaceNZ:

1. Prime Minister Key said New Zealand gets “thousands” of refugees. He mentioned “3,000-4,000” annually, when family reunification numbers are included.

Fact: If the Prime Minister’s perception is that this number is “just about right” at 3,000-4,000 thousand, then the Prime Minister would be endorsing over tripling our current in-take. In reality, New Zealand gets approximately 1170 refugees annually, all categories included. This figure includes 750 from the UNHCR quota, about 300 for family reunification, and approximately 120 asylum seekers. In recent years, even those numbers have not been filled.

2. The Prime Minister referred to the refugee centre in Mangere as a “detention centre.”

Fact: Many in the refugee sector would be incredibly uncomfortable to hear this mistake said by the Prime Minister. It’s not just semantics at stake here. The facility is a resettlement centre. That fact is reflected in the centre’s title of, ‘Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre’. New UNHCR arrivals are welcomed and free to come and go as they please. This is particularly important to note because New Zealand has had a proud history for not detaining refugees as a general rule, with the rare exceptions of those few asylum seekers (a different category than UN arrivals) whose identity is pending. This respectful welcoming has been a key source of New Zealand’s excellent reputation internationally. However, this may change in future. For the first time, mandatory detention will apply to any future boat arrivals containing over 30 people, as passed in 2013 legislation, should New Zealand ever receive one.

3. When referring to refugees, our Prime Minister stated that, “Our humanitarian position is, I think, top of the class.”

Fact: When it comes to refugee in-take, New Zealand is far closer to the bottom of the class. New UNHCR figures show we are 90th in the world in the total number of refugees we host per capita. Worse, if you figure by our relative wealth, then we rank 116th. Our world standing has actually dropped by three places since last year. These figures were released last week.

4. Prime Minister Key’s response to recent reports cited by the UNHCR that Australia was paying off human traffickers was, “I don’t know that they are.” He further stated, “It’s a matter for them. I don’t critique that, no more than I would critique Australia’s tax policy.”

Commentary by Tracey Barnett: The great irony is that a great nation like Australia has become the human traffickers they so abhor. If New Zealand’s Prime Minister chooses to ignore Australia’s entry into human trafficking, what does that say about us on the world stage?

New Zealand’s deliberate silence has already been noticed internationally. This will become particularly noticed when New Zealand takes the presidency of the UN Security Council next month, especially if the Prime Minister chooses not to lead by example, or by word on refugee issues. Desperate civilians fleeing from war in unprecedented numbers is not tax policy, Prime Minister. That is a moral equivalency few Kiwis can be proud of.


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