Susan Devoy calls for NZ to take more refugees

  • 17/06/2016
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy (file)
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy (file)

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says New Zealand should take more refugees to show it's deserving of its seat at the United Nations Security Council.

The Government announced on Monday that it would up New Zealand's annual refugee quota from 750 to 1000 from 2018 -- the first time the quota's been changed in close to 30 years.

But that fell short of the expectations of opposition parties and refugee advocates, who've been calling for the quota to be doubled to 1500.

On Friday, Dame Susan released a statement on the eve of UN Refugee Day suggesting New Zealand could raise its overall intake through programs outside the official quota.

"This is an opportunity for our Government to demonstrate why we deserve to be sitting on the UN Security Council and whether we have the right to chair the UNHCR annual tripartite consultations on resettlement for the next year."

She said this week's announcement was a step in the right direction but it was a very small, very safe step that took New Zealand 30 years to take.

"When our grandchildren ask us what we did when the world faced its worst humanitarian crisis in history: we should be able to tell them we did things that made us feel proud to be New Zealanders."

The former New Zealand representative squash player said meeting former refugees and hearing their heartbreaking stories of survival "changed my life".

Dame Susan said New Zealand's existing social problems should not be used as an excuse to limit the nation's humanitarian efforts.

"We should do both, if we have enough money for a flag referendum we can help take care of the most vulnerable people, those in refugee camps as well as those here at home."

She said a community sponsorship pilot that was unveiled this week was a way of taking more refugees.

"Communities across the country are showing they want to welcome refugees and we urge the Government to let them do so."

On Friday she joined New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd and 500 walkers on the final leg of the Parihaka peace hikoi in Taranaki.

On Saturday the Government is officially opening a rebuilt refugee resettlement centre in Mangere in south Auckland.