'Stubborn' National alone in refugee debate

Refugees cross the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece (AAP)
Refugees cross the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece (AAP)

The heart-breaking image of a young boy's lifeless body, discovered washed up on a beach, is heightening calls for something to be done about the refugee crisis in Europe.

The youngster was amongst at least 11 who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. It's estimated about 3600 people have died trying to get to Europe by boat in the past 12 months.

In Germany, 3500 refugees have been registered in the past 24 hours, and around 3000 are crossing into Hungary – and into the EU – every day.

One man stuck at a train station in Budapest told Sky News he fled Afghanistan with his family because it was impossible to stay.

"Al-Qaida attack us, [Islamic State] is coming for us. I don't know what will happen."

Here in New Zealand, every political party with a presence in Parliament is calling for the number of refugees we take in each year to be raised – except the one that counts.

National has ruled out an emergency intake, and won't even consider raising the quota, which has been 750 since 1987, until a review has taken place next year.

Prime Minister John Key earlier this week said there were "plenty" of countries that don't take any refugees at all, and told More FM this morning he was "conscious" of the situation in Europe.

"Can we take more? Well, yeah, that's a possibility. Every three years we do a review."

New Zealand is currently ranked 87th in the world for the number of refugees it takes in each year per capita.

Parties on the left have long argued the quota should be raised, and now they're being joined by the far right, with ACT leader David Seymour criticising the Government's "stubborn" refusal.

"We are lucky that we have huge oceans that protect us. We don't have people storming across any land borders in New Zealand," Mr Seymour said on the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"But that gives us an obligation to look at well, what can we do for people? How many people should we choose to come here?"

He says the quota should be automatically increased in line with either the population or GDP because they "indicate what sort of capacity we have to absorb people".

If the quota had increased in line with population since 1987, it would now by 1040. If it had increased with GDP, it would be closer to 3000.

Mr Seymour says no matter what "arbitrary" number we accept, it won't solve the root causes of the crisis, but it's better than doing nothing.

"It makes an enormous difference to the individuals that come. Should there be more them? I would argue yes. So you've got to actually start with what you can do, rather than worrying about what you can't."

If it's a matter of cost, Mr Seymour says the Government could always let wealthier Kiwis pitch in. 

"If every New Zealand adult put up $100 and it cost $100,000 to bring a refugee here and settle them in and do all the things that you have to do, you could triple the number just like that. I don't know how many people would donate how much, but I wonder if the Government could not allow people to bring refugees if they're prepared to donate and stump up the cash."

Amnesty International wants the quota doubled to 1500, while the Greens have drafted a bill to raise it 1000, MP Denise Roche calling that "the least we can do".

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