3 Sep 2015

PM softens stance on refugees

9:10 pm on 3 September 2015

The Government could consider lifting the current 750 annual refugee quota before the scheduled review next year, Prime Minister John Key says.

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Refugees crawl through barbed wire. Photo: AFP

Mr Key had insisted New Zealand was already doing its bit with regard to accepting refugees.

However, political pressure has been mounting, with all other parties calling for a response to the mounting crisis in Europe.

Mr Key said the Government was constantly looking at its options and might take a fresh look at the refugee quota.

"We're not ruling out looking at whether there's more that we can possibly do earlier and maybe specifically in relation to what we're seeing at the moment."

John Key at the All Blacks RWC 2015 squad announcement.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

However Mr Key said firstly the Government would want to get good advice, to ensure other refugees already here would not be disadvantaged.

"We need... to make sure that if we do do more that we can actually do a good job of whatever it is we're doing - whether it involves people or money."

New Zealanders could take some confidence that the Government was already doing a range of things, he said.

"So, of course we take refugees - that's one part of what we are doing. But we also put in about $15 million, since 2011, in the refugee camps in places like Turkey and Jordan.

"We're not only helping to build out those refugee camps but we're also building schools there so we can provide education for young people because in the case of many of these Syrians, if the opportunity allows, they would like to go back to Syria," he said.

250614. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Leader profiles. Peter Dunne, leader of the United Future political party.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

United Future leader Peter Dunne said while it was pleasing Mr Key appeared to be reconsidering his stance on not taking any more refugees, he wanted to see specifics.

"Obviously the reaction of what's been going on right around the world in recent days has, I think, surprised a lot of countries," he said.

"I think it's probably caused a lot of people to rethink their attitudes so if that's what he's indicating that's good news but I think we really need to see detail of what he might be proposing."

Any move towards accepting more refugees was progress Mr Key's comments were too vague to start celebrating, Mr Dunne said.

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said it was not good enough that the Government was not moving to take more refugees immediately, and Mr Key's refusal to help immediately showed a lack of moral leadership.

Mr Little said he questioned whether Mr Key had a conscience.

"How can you not, when you see what is happening across Europe ... and we stand on the sidelines, members of the Security Council, having promised the world that we were the great humanitarians, and do nothing?"

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