Keys signals lift in refugee quota

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key has signalled New Zealand’s annual quota will be lifted from the current levels of 750.

Speaking at a NZ Institute of International Affairs conference, Mr Key said the three yearly review of the quota was currently underway. That has been at 750 since 1987.

“You ask a fair question, is it enough? We have had that number for a very long period of time. It is quite obvious the world need for host countries of refugees has been accelerated quite rapidly in recent times.”

He said he had not seen any of the work of the review. “But it’s far from impossible New Zealand will lift its annual quota.”

Mr Key said on the basis New Zealand could offer the same or a better level of re-settlement service to those refugees it would be “realistic” to argue for an increase in the quota.

It comes as Labour leader Andrew Little reignited his calls for the quota to be doubled to 1500 a year following his visit to a refugee camp in Jordan.

Labour were in Government for nine years and didn’t lift the annual quota by a single person. Then in the comfort of opposition when they don’t need to actually decide anything, they declare it should be doubled.

However, Mr Key issued two sounds of warning, saying any change would have to leave some leeway for New Zealand to offer one-off emergency intakes, such as last September’s decision to accept 750 Syrian refugees over three years. Of those, 600 were part of an emergency intake outside the quota. The extra intake was expected to cost an extra $49 million over three years in resettlement costs, on top of the $58 million spent on refugee resettlement annually.

Mr Key said it was also important New Zealand had the capacity to properly re-settle those refugees if the quota was lifted.

What I would do is move the quota to what it would be if it had increased by population growth since 1987. That would take it to around 1,100.Further I would peg it to our overall population so every 1% increase in our population sees the quota automatically increase by 1%.

As important as quantity, is quality. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in the UNHCR system. We should choose refugees who have the best chances of integrating into New Zealand – as most refugees already do.