New Zealand urged to create more compassionate refugee policy
27 May 2019 at 4:16 pm
World Vision is calling on the New Zealand government to scrap refugee quota restrictions that the charity argues are discriminatory and wrong.
The government’s refugee quota and policies are up for review in June and World Vision NZ said the rules needed to be changed to help settle refugees from the world’s most vulnerable places.
In a statement, the charity said the current restrictions were discriminatory by only allowing refugees from the Middle East or Africa to settle in NZ if they already had family here – even though this rule doesn’t apply to refugees from other parts of the world.
Grant Bayldon, national director of World Vision NZ, said the current rules meant those fleeing from areas like South Sudan and Syria had virtually no chance of coming to safety.
“New Zealand is a country that has always welcomed people,” Bayldon said.
“Who better to welcome than the world’s most vulnerable families who are fleeing conflicts beyond their control and just want to make new lives for themselves and their children?”
While the United Nations refugee agency has called on developed countries to prioritise resettlement for people from major crisis zones like South Sudan, only 12 South Sudanese have been resettled in NZ since 2011.
“These people need a better option. But coming to New Zealand is out of reach for all but a tiny minority of them, thanks to the family link policy. It’s discriminatory and it’s wrong,” Bayldon said.
“This government has the opportunity to fix this – to open our doors to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The time to do that is right now.”
NZ Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has indicated the government would be open to changing its policy.
Lees-Galloway told RNZ that he agreed with World Vision that the current policy was discriminatory.
“Insofar as that it treats one group of people differently from others, it does do that,” Lees-Galloway said.
“But that was a policy that was put in place by the previous government so that they could focus the refugee intake on the Asia-Pacific region.
“We have to look at where the need is around the world, and there is no doubt that there is significant need in the Africa and Middle East regions.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already pledged to raise the refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 in July 2020, with the government also promising to increase the geographical spread of refugee resettlement and support services.