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Campaigner welcomes removal of racist refugee restrictions

The founder of the Double the Quota campaign has applauded the coalition government for Friday’s announcement that a discriminatory policy would be removed.

The policy, while not affecting the total number of refugees, had slashed the number of refugees coming to New Zealand from Africa and the Middle East.

Under the restriction, only refugees from these regions who already had existing ties to New Zealand would be eligible to be bought in under the quota. The same restrictions did not apply to refugees based in Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

Murdoch Stephens, founder of the successful Double the Quota campaign added, “I am pleased that the leaders of the country have heeded the call to scrap this racist policy. The Immigration Minister has made a strong statement that our humanitarian refugee policy must fulfill the goal of helping those most at risk.”

Stephens first wrote of the policy in 2014 when warning that it could lead to negative repercussions in the then National government’s attempts to gain a place on the UN security council.

“The policy change has taken more than five years, longer than even the double the quota campaign,” Stephens said.

“It was a policy put in place by National and it has taken brave work from the coalition to reverse it.”

The first public interest in the policy came with in 2017 when it was compared to Donald Trumps’ Muslim ban, leading to the Green Party bringing it up in the House and promising to repeal the policy at the 2017 election.

Tragically, the push to abandon the policy only received public traction after the Christchurch mosque attacks, when numerous refugee-background New Zealanders who were born in Africa and the Middle East were murdered.

Since May, removing the policy has been a regular feature in the media, led by Mire and a feature story on TVNZ’s Sunday with Jehan Cassinder. In July, World Vision submitted a petition on the restrictions to a select committee, while in September Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon strongly criticised the policy as “racist and discriminatory”.

For more details on the policy, see Stephens’ article in Policy Quarterly that backgrounds the history of the policy citing documents sourced under the Official Information Act. For the tl;dr version, see the history of the policy in this article for the Spinoff.

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