An Amnesty International demonstration outside the Beehive, 2015

Cheat sheet: overdue change to refugee policy announced

A long-derided refugee policy has been reversed, the government announced today.

 

What’s happening?

The government has announced changes to its three-year refugee policy, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region and removing restrictions for some refugees. In announcing the changes, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said, “we knew changes needed to be made and today’s announcements reflect the priority this Government gives to people who need refugee assistance.”

What’s the key change?

Refugees from all regions would be eligible to be welcomed into New Zealand under the quota.

Hasn’t that always been the policy?

No. In 2011, it was announced that African and Middle Eastern refugees would require an existing family link to New Zealand in order to be welcomed. This restriction didn’t apply to refugees from any other region.

That’s messed up.

It is. Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon recently called “racist and discriminatory”.

“Policies that single out African and Middle Eastern refugees and treat them unfairly in comparison to other refugees are unacceptable,” he said.

The push for the policy to be scrapped gained traction after March 15, when a number of New Zealanders who were born in Africa or the Middle East were murdered.

You can read more about the bad policy here.

So this change sounds like a good thing.

Yes. Campaigners have fought for years for the removal of the family-link policy. Refugee advocate Murdoch Stephens has welcomed the announcement, saying “I am pleased that the leaders of the country have heeded the call to scrap this racist policy. The Immigration Minister has made a strong statement that our humanitarian refugee policy must fulfil the goal of helping those most at risk.”

“It was a policy put in place by National and it has taken brave work from the coalition to reverse it.”

Were there any other changes announced?

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The focus of New Zealand’s refugee policy will remain in the Asia-Pacific region, with 50% of the quota places being allocated there for the next three years. The number of places within the quota for large-scale refugee crises will increase from 100 to 200 a year starting next July.

The sub-category for women at risk will increase from a minimum of 75 to a minimum of 150 a year.

Isn’t the refugee quota changing too?

Yes. In July 2020, the refugee quota will be raised from 1000 to 1500 a year.


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