Government dragging the chain on refugee sponsorship pilot, say Greens
A pilot to allow community groups to privately sponsor 25 refugees to New Zealand is yet to be in place more than a year after it's announced.
The drawn-out timetable of a policy - which would all but absolve the Government of providing a small group of refugees the support they needed, handing that over to private citizens - was an example of ministers "dragging their heels", said Greens Immigration spokeswoman Denise Roche.
The Government announced in June last year that it would raise New Zealand's refugee quota to accept up to 1000 a year - the first rise since the quota was set at 750 in 1987.
The announcement was met with criticism that it fell well short of the 1500 refugees settlement centres said they could ultimately handle, but former Prime Minister also announced it was a trial pilot to test communities' willingness to privately sponsor 25 refugees.
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But while the overall quota won't be raised until 2018, no official timetable was set for the pilot, at the time of the announcement.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has confirmed he has not taken a business case to Cabinet for the project, but expects to by the end of the financial year.
"Officials are currently working on the detailed policy settings for the new category," he confirmed.
"There has been no delay to the development of a community organisation refugee sponsorship category.
"In June last year the Government agreed in principle to the concept as an alternative form of admission to complement the refugee quota. The details are still being worked through and the new category will be piloted in the 2017/18 financial year for 25 refugees as previously announced."
But in response to written questions from Roche, asking for a progress update, Woodhouse did not give any indication whether the policy would be enacted this year.
Roche said the Government had promised to do the bare minimum, and appeared as though it was trying to delay doing that.
"The Government shifted on the refugee quota, basically because of pressure from the community because it was seen as the fair thing to do, and it's not in place yet until 2018.
"And this alternative method of sponsoring refugees into the country is also not in place, so it's just not good enough," she said.
"We've got a humanitarian crisis happening and this Government is twiddling its fingers."
Roche questioned whether a pilot was necessary, given the policy had been enacted in a number of other countries and a wealth of information was available.
"As a scheme, it's a really good way for families to be able to participate in supporting refugees coming to New Zealand. It's worthwhile and the Red Cross are very keen on it as well, because they know families that would happily support and sponsor refugees in the country.
"The fact it hasn't happened yet, is just an example of the Government continually dragging their heels, when there is a humanitarian crisis happening in the world today."