Greens unveil policy to raise refugee quota to 5000 within six years

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has unveiled the party's refugee policy, committing to up the total refugee intake to ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has unveiled the party's refugee policy, committing to up the total refugee intake to 5000 in six years.

New Zealand can handle up to 5000 refugees a year, says the Green Party, which has announced a policy to double the quota twice over.

It would also set up a separate programme to allow the private sponsorship of up to 1000 additional refugees, co-leader James Shaw announced on World Refugee day. 

It would stagger the increase so New Zealand's current quota of 1000 - due to be fully implemented by 2018 - would be immediately upped to 2000 if the Greens had a say in Government. 

They would then set the goal of doubling that to 4000 within six years. A new visa category would also allow for up to 100 climate change refugees, primarily from the Pacific, to be allowed to migrate to New Zealand. 

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"As a percentage it's a big increase, but as an actual number it's not. We knew that when the Syrian crisis really hit the headlines last year, there was a huge outpouring across New Zealand to help," Shaw said. 

"By the time we get to 5000 a year, that will only put us on a par with Australia in terms of numbers of refugees per head of population, so all we're really doing is catching. "  

It was expected to cost an additional $66m in 2018, rising to $350m once the quota had reached 4000 places. 

The party also proposed using money from the "Investor Plus" visa category - which grants residency to people willing to invest more than $10m in New Zealand - to build a new refugee settlement centre outside Auckland and contribute to ongoing costs.

"So we want to further target that contribution to people who can't afford to buy their way into New Zealand."  

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Shaw said the party would take applications from councils, to a second refugee resettlement centre built in their district. The entire policy was valued at a "more conservative level" to ensure it fully covered resettlement needs. 

"At the moment, New Zealand has a world class refugee resettlement programme, but it is stretched in terms of the funding. 

"So $350m dollars at the time [the policy] was fully implemented would both cover the additional but also at a level of funding that was adequate." 

The Greens would work with churches and community groups to develop a private sponsorship programme - expanding on one the Government announced last year, but was yet to implement. 

The Government was nearing implementation though - its pilot would see 25 refugees accepted into New Zealand outside the quota. 

The policy was similar to a far larger one that had been applied with some success in Canada, but the Greens believe private church and community groups across New Zealand could handle 1000. 

Shaw said the Government was falling short of its responsibilities in the Middle East refugee crisis. A ban on accepting refugees from that region and Africa had been in place since. The Government had cited security concerns and a responsibility to look closer to home, among contributing factors. 

Shaw said "security" was a flimsy argument. 

"Obviously, security is a consideration. But the point is that the UNHCR (refugee agency) and the New Zealand Government do vet everybody anyway, so having a blanket ban based on the country someone is from is discriminatory and is a kneejerk reaction to a perceived threat." 

The Government last year said it would up New Zealand's refugee quota from the 750 it stood at for the past 30 years, to 1000 by 2018. 

Prime Minister Bill English said the Government had recent talks around progressing its own private sponsorship pilot. 

"As a result of discussions with church leaders about a month ago, there's probably now intensive discussion going on between the Government agencies and churches about how to get that pilot up and going." 

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Stuff

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