6 Sep 2015

NZ in 'unique' position to help Syrians

8:48 am on 6 September 2015

Pressure is growing on the government to use its seat on the UN Security Council to address the root cause of the refugee crisis in Europe.

Caucus run 21/07/15

A spokesperson for Prime Minister John Key said today the government had not yet reached a decision on whether to take extra refugees from Syria. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Most of the refugees are escaping conflict in Syria, and aid agencies say people will continue to leave until the conflict is resolved.

More on NZ's role in the crisis

World Vision chief executive Chris Clarke said New Zealand needed to use its position on the security council to help end Syria's civil war.

"The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions but we all know that talk is cheap - what matters is actually if those resolutions are implemented."

Hundreds of refugees and migrants - many from Syria - leave the transit zone of Budapest's main train staion for Austria on 4 September.

Hundreds of refugees and migrants - many from Syria - leave the transit zone of Budapest's main train staion for Austria on 4 September. Photo: AFP

UNICEF has joined the call for action on Syria, urging governments to find a peaceful solution to the four-year-old conflict.

An Auckland-based lawyer specialising in refugee issues, Michael Timmins, said New Zealand was in a unique position to do that.

"We are an independent voice. We are in a different part of the world and we should be using those advantages to pull together the parties in a private sense, behind the scenes, and try and build some common ground and actually become a bit of a negotiator."

Mr Timmins said New Zealand could also help European Union members negotiate an agreement on how to deal with the flood of refugees.

The Prime Minister's office, meanwhile, said the government had not yet decided whether New Zealand would accept more refugees from Syria.

Speaking on TV3's The Nation yesterday, UN refugee agency spokesperson Ariane Rummery said New Zealand had agreed to take 100 extra Syrian refugees in addition to its usual annual quota of 750 refugees from all countries.

But a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's office said no such decision had been made.

She said the government was considering all options and taking advice.

The spokesperson said the government wanted to make sure additional refugees would get the level of support all refugees currently get when they arrive in New Zealand.