Refugee Quota Review

Refugee Quota Review

New Zealand’s refugee quota is reviewed every three years, and 2016 is a review year.  There is a broad-based campaign within New Zealand that is advocating a doubling of our refugee quota.  A number of our Dioceses have passed Synodical resolutions in support of this, and at its February meeting the Management Committee for our Diocese passed a motion supporting Bishop Justin’s stance in support of the Double the Quota campaign.

In this month’s Bishop’s News Bishop Justin is asking for your support of this initiative by asking you to write to your MPs to lobby for an increase to the numbers of refugees entering New Zealand each year.  In particular, we would like to ask you to ask them to double the annual quota. It is free to write to your MP and the address is:

[insert MP name]

Freepost Parliament,

Private Bag 18 888, Parliament Buildings,

Wellington 6160

The more voices we can add to this cause the better.

Three Reasons for Doubling the Quota

Since 1987 New Zealand’s refugee quota has changed only once: a 1997 decrease to 750 places in exchange for the Government paying for refugee airfares.

This time-lag is the first of three reasons the quota should be doubled: our population has grown by over 40% since 1987.  Adjust the 1987 quota (which was 50 more than today’s) for this inflation and we’d be welcoming just over 1120 people per annum.

The second reason is a little more complex.  Total refugee numbers are made of quota refugees and asylum seekers.  Between 1997 and 2001, New Zealand accepted, on average, including appeals, 500 asylum claims.  Today’s five year average has us accepting just 120 claims a year.  That means our total refugee numbers have not only stalled but have actually decreased.  As a country proud of punching above our weight, we have to do more.  A quota of 1500 would make up for population growth and declining asylum seeker numbers.

Third, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) ranks us 90th in the world per capita at hosting refugees.  If we’re really interested in doing our bit – not being world leaders, but doing our fair share – we should consider what other like-minded countries are doing.

Whenever raising the quota is mentioned to Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse, he has said that our current quota “places New Zealand sixth equal in the world for accepting refugees referred by the UNHCR.”  That is dodgy accounting.  Refugees can come into a country as part of the UN quota or as asylum seekers.  New Zealand is one of a handful of countries that host more quota refugees than asylum seekers, mostly because the vast surrounding oceans make it dangerous for boat travel.

Almost all other countries receive the bulk of refugees as asylum seekers and they count quota and asylum seekers in official reporting.  By counting only quota refugees, the current Government has misled the public that New Zealand is a world leader in accepting refugees.

We all know about Australia’s appalling asylum seeker policies but few know that their refugee numbers are three times ours per capita and will grow to more than four times by 2019.  Doubling the quota – 1500 individuals – wouldn’t make us world leaders.

It’d mean we’re closer to doing our bit, but we’d still be lower than the world average.