World Vision calls on New Zealand to end 'discriminatory' refugee policy

World Vision is asking the New Zealand government to fix what it believes is an unjust policy towards refugees.

New Zealand's refugee quota and policies are up for review in June and the charity says there is an urgent need to provide further help to the most vulnerable regions of the world.

Current policy dictates that refugees from Africa and the Middle East can only qualify for resettlement in New Zealand if they have family members already in the country.

No other regions in the world have this caveat applied to their applications.

"These people need a better option," says World Vision New Zealand National Director Grant Bayldon. "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.

"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."

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told RNZ that he agrees with World Vision that the current policy is discriminatory.

"Insofar as that it treats one group of people differently from others, it does do that. 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."

The United Nations has called on developed nations to take in refugees from areas where major humanitarian crises are occuring. Right now, Africa and the Middle East are those areas and Lees-Galloway indicated the government will keep this in mind with its review.

"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."

New Zealand has resettled just 12 refugees from war and famine-stricken South Sudan since 2011.

While almost 1000 refugees from Syria have been resettled since 2014, they were only eligible via an emergency category from within the overall quota.

Without that exception, just three of the top 10 nationalities of refugees to New Zealand since 2014 have been from Africa or the Middle East.