Refugee advocate seeks assurances of evidence-based quota review
Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show the 2013 advice to Cabinet on the refugee quota was based on the preferences of the Prime Minister and did not allow for the relevant Ministers or Immigration officials to put forward a previously suggested case for an increase.
Doing Our Bit spokesperson Murdoch Stephens is seeking a reassurances that the department can put forward their preferred case. “The 2013 quota review may have been based on the same misunderstanding of the facts, so we ask for an assurance that the forthcoming review will allow Immigration New Zealand to put forward an evidence-based case.”
On Monday the Prime Minister admitted that he thought the nation’s annual refugee quota was “three or four thousand”. He later corrected himself by acknowledging just over one thousand total places were available every year.
Editorials in every major daily newspaper have backed the call for an increase to the quota - including support for doubling it from the NZ Herald and Dominion Post. Many service providers have also noted there is capacity for an increase. Similarly every other political party has commented at some point in the last year that they support an increase to at least a 1000 places per annum.
The documents obtained from an Official Information Act request show Immigration New Zealand were making a case for Cabinet that included a option of raising the quota to 900 places. However, public comments by Key at the time meant that advice did not go forward.
A February 2013 MBIE briefing contained the following point:
“4. Public statements by the Prime Minister have subsequently made it clear that his preference is for the Refugee Quota Programme to remain at 750. We seek confirmation that that is the recommended option to put forward to Cabinet.”
No subsequent papers or briefings mention the previous case for raising the quota.
“These documents show that our quota intake has remained low due to what we now know to be an unfortunate error in calculation by the Prime Minister.”
Stephens added, “We ask that the Prime Minister allow Immigration to put forward a neutral case based on relevant evidence such as capacity, reference to population increases since the quota was established and the current needs indicated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. We ask that he instructs them to ignore his previous comments on the quota and to take advice from Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse who has noted that the government has ‘an open mind’ on the quota review.”