7 Sep 2015

Mixed response to refugee boost

6:21 pm on 7 September 2015

The announcement by the Government to accept an emergency intake of Syrian refugees is a welcome move, Labour Party Leader Andrew Little says.

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little.

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

New Zealand will now accept 600 refugees, over the next two and a half years, while a further 150 will be offered a place within the existing 750 annual quota, in this financial year.

Mr Little said he would no longer be going ahead with Labour's plan to try to table a member's bill in Parliament to allow an extra 750 refugees into New Zealand.

He said Labour was pleased the Government had changed its mind since last week.

Greens respond

Green Party Co-leader, James Shaw.

Green Party co-leader, James Shaw. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Green Party said it would still seek leave of Parliament tomorrow to introduce its bill to permanently increase New Zealand's refugee quota.

Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, said an emergency intake of 600 refugees was a good first step but did not address the long-term problem of New Zealand's "embarrassingly low" refugee quota.

Mr Shaw said if the Green Party's bill was successfully introduced, Parliament would get to hear from refugees and experts so MPs could decide on a "fair and reasonable quota".

United Future says 'positive first step'

Peter Dunne

Peter Dunne Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The party's leader, Peter Dunne, said the Government's move demonstrated New Zealand was prepared to play a role in alleviating the crisis in Europe.

However Mr Dunne said that should not be at the expense of an increase to the annual refugee quota - to at least 1000.

He wanted an urgent task force involving central and local government, churches and other relevant community groups to work together to ensure that the refugees were able to settle quickly.

Call for a co-ordinated response

Wellington charity ChangeMakers Refugee Forum is worried the response to the crisis will be too sporadic and un-coordinated.

It has written to the Government, urgently requesting a united approach that includes charities, academics, tangata whenua and community, ethnic and faith-based organisations.

Chief executive Tayyaba Khan said there was no time to waste, but a proper response was needed.

"This is not just about now - if we bring people into the country now that's great, but they're going to stay here, so we need to make sure that we're providing them with support so they can actually go on into their future successfully.

"So a sporadic response doesn't help with that."

Ms Khan said the Government needed to get on board and support them.

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