Opinion: We must take more refugees

The Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (file)
The Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (file)

We like to think we are the caring nation, don't we? We are the good guys of the world – the honest broker.

We care for human rights more than others, right?

That's nonsense actually. So I'm just going to come out and say it – I'm embarrassed that we don't take more refugees, and it's time that changed with the upcoming Government review of our numbers.

We take plenty of immigrants and foreign students – and there is no problem with that. They're at record levels in fact.

So what are the reasons we don't offer more places for refugees? You can't stack up an argument against this.

The refugee quota was set at 800 places in 1987. We do less than that 29 years later, despite being a bigger, wealthier and more multi-cultural country.

Our population growth has grown 42 percent since 1987. The Bolger Government actually stripped 50 places in 1997.

And since 2001 it became much, much harder for asylum seekers to get into the country.

 So, it's been this way for far too long and we've gone backwards.

The Mangere Refugee Resettlement centre will be reopened in June with a capacity of 1500 people.

Clearly, even the officials are lining up to take more refugees. I'm not an expert in how many more we can take, but we can do much better than the 750 we take annually, and even then we don't always fill our quota.

1000 must be the minimum and 1500 sounds much better. We should aim for that.

The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War Two. 60 million people are displaced, 20 million are refugees. Syria is an international crisis and other countries in the region have millions of refugees and are playing their part. They have little choice.

Over the next three years NZ will offer an additional 750 additional places for Syrians, but this year we will take just 250.

Over the same time, Australia is offering 12,000 - that's 9.6 times as many places.

And we laugh at Australia's record on human rights and race relations? We need to look in the mirror and be honest about ourselves.

We can cope with more and the fact regions and communities have put their hands up to help, for the first time, shows we're up to it and up for it.

We are happy to take the big jobs on the international stage. We sit on the UN Security Council; we have Helen Clark at the UN, in one the biggest jobs in the world, helping developing nations.

We can't pick and choose when to be international players.

It's time we walked our talk.

Indeed, it's well past time. We are in serious deficit.


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