Refugees will end up jobless if we take in too many - English

New Zealand won't be lifting its refugee quota further because too many of them will end up jobless, says Prime Minister Bill English.

His comments come after four of his predecessors joined a campaign urging the Government to take in more. Jim Bolger, Helen Clark, Mike Moore and Sir Geoffrey Palmer believe New Zealand can take in another 500, no problem at all.

"I support the intent of it, which is being open to refugees, being willing to commit to working with them so they can integrate well into New Zealand," Mr English told The AM Show on Monday.

The Government last year announced the first increase in the quota in 29 years. From next year it will rise from 750 a year to 1000. Any more, and Mr English says the quality of service New Zealand offers will start to dip.

"In the first three years a refugee in New Zealand, we spend about $100,000 on each one… it's proving to be quite a challenge in other countries where quite small proportions of them are getting jobs."

According to Immigration statistics, five years after their arrival around 38 percent of refugees are in paid employment, and just under 20 percent are receiving unemployment-related benefits. 

Mr English says countries which take more refugees per head of population than New Zealand struggle to get them integrated into the local culture.

"We do focus strongly on doing a good job on the refugees who come here so they can be properly part of our community.

"The experience in a number of other countries where there are larger numbers is that it's difficult for them to integrate. After five, seven, 10 years only a small proportion of them have jobs and have the language."

The Greens want to boost the intake to 5000, while Labour is calling for 1500.

According to the United Nations, there are currently more than 65 million people who have been forced from their homes. In 2016, only 189,000 were resettled.