Greens aim to boost refugee intake by thousands

10:03 am on 20 June 2017

The Green Party wants to increase New Zealand's annual refugee intake to 4000 within six years, and allow community and church groups to bring in a further 1000.

A Syrian refugee family at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

A Syrian refugee family at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (file photo). Photo: 123RF

The party said New Zealand was not doing enough to help the millions of people being forced from their homes.

From 2018, New Zealand's annual refugee quota will rise for the first time since 1987 - from 750 per year to 1000.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said that was not enough.

He said if the Greens became part of the government after September's election they would lift that quota to 4000 people per year.

The party would also allow an additional 1000 refugees in under a community sponsorship programme and create a humanitarian visa category for people displaced by climate change.

"There is a huge humanitarian crisis with 63 million displaced people, of whom 23 million are UN refugees.

"We really felt that it was important that New Zealand does more than it is doing and that we toed the same line as Australia and Canada," said Mr Shaw.

"When the Syrian crisis made the headlines last year we heard from church groups and community groups that they felt that they had the capacity to help and that they wanted to help."

29062016 Photo RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King. Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw: "We really felt that it was important that New Zealand does more than it is doing." Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A second resettlement centre, outside of Auckland, would have to be built under the plan.

Mr Shaw said the government had argued the quota could not go higher because there were not enough services to cope.

"[But it is] because they [the government] won't pay for those services."

He said some of the costs of the second centre could be covered by requiring high-net-worth immigrants who gained residency under the investor categories to contribute.

The policy to increase the quota to 4000 would cost the government $350 million a year.

Prime Minister Bill English said the government was focused on having everything in place for the extra refugees due to begin arriving next year.

"All the work that's been done on the prospects for refugees show that they need sustained support around language and employment for a number of years," he said.

Mr English said the government was also piloting a programme to allow community groups to privately sponsor 25 refugees.

That pilot was announced a year ago however, and was yet to be put in place.

'Doing Our Bit' double-the-quota campaign founder Murdoch Stephens said the government was dragging its heels on upping the refugee intake.

He said the campaign was staging a protest at Parliament on Tuesday, to ask MPs for an immediate increase in the refugee intake.