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We are experiencing the world’s biggest refugee crisis since World War Two. More than 60 million people are displaced, and 20 million of these are refugees; that is they are displaced and outside their country of origin. The government is expected to make an announcement regarding their review of New Zealand’s Refugee Quota, and to set the quota for the next three years. Salient spoke to Murdoch Stephens, founder of campaign Doing Our Bit and Victoria University PHD student, about his hopes for the outcome of the review.
Currently the refugee quota allows for 750 refugees to be settled in New Zealand per year and this has not been adjusted since 1987. The review of the quota is a Cabinet decision and does not need to passed in parliament.
Immigration New Zealand have submitted their advice to the government, which was in consultation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Green, Labour, ACT, United Future, and the Māori party have all supported an increase in the quota.
In 2013 Cabinet signed off on the current three-year Refugee Quota Programme, which gives preference to refugees from the Asia-Pacific Region over those from Africa, South America, and the Middle East.
Murdoch Stephens, founder of campaign Doing Our Bit which advocates for a doubling of the refugee quota to 1500, speculates that the announcement of the review could be as early as the next fortnight or as late as July.
“If we know, we can pressure them more,” Stephens said, speculating that the Government will announce it when it suits them, and that if they are choosing not to raise the quota they will “bury it on a Friday afternoon” to avoid media attention.
In addition to doubling the quota, Doing Our Bit recommends doubling the funding for the resources and services which support the integration of refugees into society.
These recommendations are based on population and GDP growth in New Zealand over the last three decades and the need for the quota to be adjusted to reflect this, as well to make up for the decreased intake of asylum seekers since 2001, following 9-11.
Numbers of asylum seekers, that is people who make a claim for protection once they have arrived in New Zealand, have decreased 75% since 2001. Asylum seekers are usually accepted in addition to the quota, but Stephens argued that as these numbers have been greatly reduced due to government’s being ‘more cautious’ increasing the quota would serve to counterbalance this.
Stephens commented that Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse knows the issue well, and has “genuine concern for the struggle of refugees,” he felt that the National party were not merely playing politics with the issue but rather that they were being “compassionate conservatives.”
Currently on a speaking tour of New Zealand to publicise the Doing Our Bit campaign, Stephens stressed that “now is a really crucial time to get active,” as the next quota review will not come until 2019.
Amnesty International is also calling for the government to double the quota, and have said in a statement that the crisis requires “an urgent and significant response from a country that currently holds a place on the UN Security Council… doubling our refugee quota is the least we can do after 28 years without an increase.”
Like Doing Our Bit, Amnesty is also calling for a two-fold increase in funding for resources and service providers “to ensure all refugees are supported to settle well here.”
Students who wish to become involved in Doing Our Bit can find out more by following the campaign on Twitter and Facebook. There is also an online petition to raise the quota which can be found on Action Station, with 16,000 signatures at the time of print.
Stephens is currently on a speaking tour of New Zealand, and will be speaking in Wellington on Tuesday, March 15 at St Andrew’s on the Terrace.