Let me state from the outset that I think New Zealand should be taking more refugees. New Zealand’s refugee quota has been set at 750 since 1997 and in that time our population has grown about 20% so at the least we should have kept track with that. I think today we can do more than that but both the Labour Party of last decade and the current National Government have stalled this and have not yet increased numbers. This problem is not about Mr. Key and ‘the right‘ it’s about politics in NZ from the political spectrum ignoring the issue for nearly two decades even though there is a review every three years.
Now in saying that I firmly believe that the quota of refugees to NZ should be increased, I also want to bring some accuracy to this conversation. If any of you have ever heard me on talk-back before you’ll know that I have an almost militant desire to be factual and fair and I think a fair point to make right now is that we seem to do more for refugees in NZ that other countries.
We were challenged on Q&A on Sunday morning that if we to step up to the refugee plate even as well as Australia did, then we’d be taking 3,000 refugees. I thought I’d look into that.
Currently Australia takes 13,750 refugees pa with the Federal Government budgeting nearly $143 million for settlement. New Zealand takes 750 refugees with the Government budgeting $20,190,000 in the 2015 budget. NZ takes one refugee for every 5,900 citizens whereas Australia takes one refugee for ever 1,700 citizens so they appear to be much more open and welcoming, however NZ spends $27,000 per refugee whereas Australia spends just $10,400, on average, on each refugee.
John Key claimed that one of the reasons we accept fewer refugees is that we provide full wrap around services and it would appear drawing the unspoken conclusion that other countries don’t do that. I think that there is validity in that claim if, like Australia, other countries are spending far less per refugee than we do in New Zealand.
So whilst I want to state again that we should definitely be taking more refugees I don’t think we’re having the correct conversation. Assuming that the budget remains the same for settlement of refugees in NZ, what we should be asking is “should we take more refugees and give them fewer services and help, or should we continue to provide the full wrap around services we have for the refugees we are currently receiving?”
Or, of course, we could all open our wallets, Government included, and give more to help those in need.