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PM’s refugee stance untenable

1 September, 2015

PM’s refugee stance untenable

Prime Minister John Key’s assertion that New Zealand is unable to accept more refugees until it can show it can first adequately house and supply education for them is an untenable excuse, one of New Zealand’s leading international law experts says.

Professor Al Gillespie says there is no legal issue around taking more refugees, “this is an ethical and political choice. In addition to expanding our existing quota, there is also precedent for taking in additional numbers in exceptional circumstances,” he says.

“The last time we took in additional numbers was when we were on the Security Council in 1993, and taking an additional quota of Somali refugees (a total of 2000 by 2006) was part of being a global leader.  We are on the Security Council again, we are involved in the war in Iraq, we have a solid economy, geographical space and a cosmopolitan society and we have a very low quota of refugees in both body count, and on a per-capita basis compared to similar developed countries. 

At the same time we are facing the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, with more than 50 million people currently displaced globally, of which at least 15 million are refugees. The crisis around Europe is only the tip of the iceberg. Mr Key should try telling Lebanon, with its population of 5 million people, and more than one million refugees now flooding their country, that New Zealand could not take few hundred more, because of difficulties of providing for them. 

Alternately, if we refuse to take more people, then the government should give more. The current aid assistance given by the New Zealand government to the region is $15 million.  Australia has provided over $200 million to in the same period. It is not reasonable for New Zealand, on the Security Council, to behave like this.  This is not the leadership the global community needs.”


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