Refugee quota decision expected this week

Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders waiting to cross into Jordan (Reuters)
Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders waiting to cross into Jordan (Reuters)

Cabinet will today consider whether to raise New Zealand's refugee quota, which hasn't moved in nearly three decades.

The Government has come under increasing pressure to double the current quota of 750, with Opposition political parties and groups such as Amnesty International leading the charge.

On Saturday night a plane carrying a banner reading 'It's time to double the refugee quota' flew over Eden Park just before the All Blacks vs Wales match.

Talking to Paul Henry this morning, Prime Minister John Key wouldn't confirm or deny whether the quota would go up.

"Cabinet's considering the matter today," he said. "It'll go through the various options. There are a range of options listed in the paper of what we could do, and we'll make a decision on that."

World Refugee Day is a week away, but on Wednesday there will be a reception at Parliament hosted by the Red Cross and Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse. The Australia and New Zealand representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Thomas Albrecht, will also be there.

The Government in 2013 committed to reviewing the quota in 2016. While it's currently 750, the number of people settled in New Zealand is usually a bit over 1000, with an extra 300 or so refugees' family members also allowed in, as well as asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

There are also occasional one-off intakes, such as that announced in September 2015 of an extra 600 Syrian refugees over the next few years.

"There's no question we've lagged behind most other countries," said Labour leader Andrew Little. "The Government can afford to lift our refugee quota to 1500, to double it, and that's what they should do."

"I'm somewhat sympathetic to potentially a move, I understand the pressure's there," said Mr Key. "But I have to balance that off a number of other issues."

The quota was set in 1987. If it had increased with population, it would now be about 1025.