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May 8, 2017 | by  | in News |
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May Day protest for migrant and refugee rights

On May 1 around 70 people gathered on Cuba Street in support of migrant and refugee rights.

The demonstration was organised by the Migrant And Refugee Rights Campaign (MARCC) as a show of solidarity in response to domestic and international xenophobia.

Before marching to the Immigration New Zealand headquarters on Willis Street, the crowd heard from a number of speakers including Syrian refugee Karam Shaar, who expressed disbelief at New Zealand’s low refugee quota.

“I can’t believe a country like New Zealand won’t raise the quota, we are talking about 4.8 million displaced people.”

New Zealand currently accepts 750 refugees into the country per year. This is being raised to 1000 in July 2018 — the first rise since 1987.

Another speaker, Murdoch Stephens, a campaigner for Doing Our Bit, called New Zealand’s refugee quota “bloody shameful” and said we have the resources to accept more people.

He also pointed out that even if the quota was doubled to 1500 per year, New Zealand would still be accepting half as many refugees per capita as Australia.

In addition to the push for greater responsibility for resettling refugees displaced by international conflicts, speakers called for greater rights for migrant workers.

Dennis Maga, of FIRST Union, said that no one is more exploited than migrants and they work in “dirty, dangerous, and difficult industries.”

He added that their work is undervalued and “every time there is a crisis in this country, some politicians, some employers, and some people blame migrants because they are brown, because they are not like them.”

Tightened immigration laws were announced by the government on April 19. Low skilled migrants will have their time in New Zealand limited to a maximum of three years, while skilled migrants now have to meet a remuneration threshold.

Labour leader Andrew Little said his party would go further and cut immigration by tens of thousands a year, while in 2016 New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said annual immigration should be limited to between 7,000 and 15,000 “seriously qualified” migrants.

Ibrahim Omer, who arrived in New Zealand as a refugee from Eritrea and who spoke at the demonstration, said he was marching to “to say that migrants and refugees are welcome in New Zealand.”

“As a former refugee, I feel I should be at the forefront in support of the march.”

He condemned the anti-immigration sentiment in current political discourse, suggesting the Labour Party in particular are blaming “immigrants for the housing crisis which is caused by the supply rather than immigrants.”

“That is a real shame and we need to tell them that this is not okay and we need to condemn them.”

Upon arriving at the Immigration New Zealand building, march organiser Gayaal Iddamalgoda read out a statement and a list of demands including “full rights for migrant workers” and for New Zealand to “double the refugee quota.”

A sheet with the demands was taped to the door and messages of solidarity were then chalked on the building’s steps.

At the time of print, the Minister of Immigration, Michael Woodhouse, failed to respond to a request for comment.

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