The number of refugees New Zealand will accept is to increase from 750 to 1000 each year, a decision widely panned by human rights advocates.
Prime Minister John Key confirmed Cabinet had discussed the issue and reached a decision on Monday.
The figure is short of the 1500 refugees campaigners and Immigration NZ have said New Zealand can handle, but Key said services had to be bolstered to cope with an increase first.
The annual costs to take on additional refugees would rise by $25 million to $100 million per year.
The Government was also working on a new pilot that would see community groups sponsor certain refugees, that filled criteria that was yet to be decided on.
New Zealand’s refugee intake quota has remained at 750 per year, for the past 30 years.
New Zealand Amnesty International chief executive Grant Bayldon said the announcement was “shameful”.
“This is a shameful and inhumane response and a stain on our country’s reputation as a good global citizen.
I recall the good old days when Amnesty was not seen as partisan. A non=partisan Amnesty would say we are pleased the Government is the first one in 30 years to increase the quota but we are disappointed they have not increased it further. But instead they call the first increase in 30 years “shameful”.
Key said Monday’s announcement was “an appropriate response”.
“Before we take any more, we need to be sure that people have the appropriate support and services they need to resettle in New Zealand, like housing, education and translation services.
“Therefore, we’ve opted to increase the quota to 1000 from 2018, after the Syrian emergency response refugees have been resettled,” he said.
“When the new quota of 1000 comes into effect, the annual cost will rise by $25 million a year, to $100 million a year.
“It’s important to note, the annual refugee quota is just one part of New Zealand’s total refugee and humanitarian programme.
“There are also 300 places available each year for family reunification, and an additional 125 to 175 asylum seekers have their claims approved each year.”
So once implemented we probably will be taking in around 1,500 refugees a year.
ACT leader David Seymour welcomed the increase but said the Government could do more to monitor the “tolerance” of refugees.
“This level of increase is very close to where we would be if we had followed ACT’s policy of increasing the quota in line with our growing population.
“However, this is also a good opportunity to up our commitment to values of peace and tolerance. Why wouldn’t we state these values clearly to the people seeking join our country?”
He proposed making all immigrants sign a “New Zealand Values Statement”, similar to those signed in Australia and Belgium.
“Specifically, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and respect for women and those of different sexualities should be understood and respected by all new New Zealanders.”
I agree with David Seymour. I think this should be a priority.