Trump's ban revives refugee quota debate

7:32 am on 31 January 2017

President Trump's ban on Muslims has revived debate about whether New Zealand should increase its refugee quota.

A vigil at Parliament calling for New Zealand to double its refugee quota.

A vigil calling for New Zealand to double its refugee quota outside Parliament in September 2015. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

World leaders, human rights groups and activists around the globe have criticised Donald Trump's order halting all refugee admissions to the United States and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among world leaders to speak out against Mr Trump's new immigration policy, saying his country would take more refugees.

Prime Minister Bill English addresses reporters about his decision not to attend Waitangi Day celebrations.

Bill English does not see the case for an immediate increase in New Zealand's refugee numbers. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

But in New Zealand, Prime Minister Bill English was hesitant to react.

"I don't see the case for that right now. We're yet to see how this US policy flows out," he said.

"Our focus is on doing a good job with the big increase that's coming through our system now."

Last year the Government announced it would increase New Zealand's refugee quota from 750 to 1000 in 2018, with 250 of those classed as emergency places.

It also agreed to accept 600 Syrian refugees as a special intake over the next two years.

It was likely New Zealand would naturally increase its refugee intake through a community sponsorship programme, Mr English said.

"We've got to pilot that because when you look at the scale of government support for these refugees, which is around a $100,000 a year for each person, and that can go for two to three years, then you're asking a lot of the community to be able to provide that kind of support to a refugee family."

But opposition parties said the Prime Minister should do more.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw speaking after Budget 2016.

James Shaw said New Zealand should be taking some of the refugees left stranded by the US. Photo: RNZ/Elliott Childs

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said Bill English had been very muted in response and should be joining other world leaders in saying New Zealand would take some of the refugees left stranded by the US.

"The New Zealand Prime Minister should come and stand next to Justin Trudeau and those other world leaders who have said that they will step into the vacuum that's been created by Donald Trump."

The Government was under pressure to respond, Mr Shaw said.

"I have been staggered by the outpouring of support for calls, not just from ourselves but from others who have been calling for the New Zealand government to step up to the plate.

"It has clearly touched a nerve."

Labour party leader Andrew Little said lifting the refugee quota to 1500 was about right.

"That's about the capacity we've got, with the facilities we've got available and the quality of the resettlement we do, that's pretty much what we could cope with."

The Government had said 1000 refugees was the most New Zealand could handle without compromising their quality of life once they moved here.

Bill English condemned Donald Trump's temporary ban on citizens from the seven Muslim majority countries, and said he would never implement such a policy in New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has refused to denounce President Trump's travel ban, saying it was not his job to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.

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