Time to let more refugees settle in New Zealand?

By   /   December 4, 2013  /   20 Comments

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Letting more refugees resettle in New Zealand does not solve the root causes of these wars. The onus is still on us all to put a stop to the needless imperialist wars and subsequent death and displacement.

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I met a young fugitive in Syria in 2008. Mehiyar, four of his mates and I met surreptitiously down an alley way, nervously checking behind our shoulders every couple of minutes. Mehiyar had escaped from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and was on the run.

But being on the run was nothing new for Mehiyar. Born in the West Bank in 1982 his family fled due to the unbearable conditions they were subjected to by the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies.

In Mehiyar’s case, his family found refuge in Saddam’s Iraq. In 2003 their relative peace ended when the US invaded. Following the overthrow of Hussein many Palestinians were stereotyped as supporters of Saddam Hussein and prime candidates for the insurgency. They faced harassment, threats of deportation, arbitrary detention, torture and murder from elements of the US-installed Ministry of Interior. Mehiyar found himself arrested for contributing to anti-occupation newspapers and ended up in Abu Ghraib prison. The world, through those infamous photos, knows what happened to him next.

Mehiyar took advantage of a prison riot to escape. He got stuck for four months in the no man’s land of the Tempf border camp between Syria and Iraq. The camp was completely uninhabitable: there was no access to food or water and it was unsheltered from the cold and extremely windy desert.

In this alleyway in Damascus Mehiyar said to me, “There is blood wherever I go but no home to come back to.”

In my travels across Syria I met many more with similar stories. Refugees two or three times over as a result of the West’s wars and occupations. Many refugees are denied entry to surrounding countries, which are already overpopulated with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but don’t have sufficient resources to sustain them.

Today I wonder where are all those I interviewed in Syria. They have become refugees once again, this time at the hands of civil war. Where can they go?

International authorities such as the UNHCR are well aware of the urgent need for other countries
to allow more refugees in but few countries have responded to the cry for help.

Take New Zealand for example. Our refugee quota hasn’t increased since 1987.

New Zealands resettlement quota for 2013 is 750. To put this in perspective Australia’s quota is 20,000. While it is laudable to lambast Abbott’s attitude to refugees bear in mind our own countries misgivings in this area. Even if we increased our quota twenty fold we wouldn’t touch the numbers Sweden accommodates.

The quota is set by the Minister of Immigration for three year cycles and the last one was set in July, all behind the scenes with nothing going through parliament.

A campaign called “Doing Our Bit” is lobbying for a doubling of our UNHCR resettlement quota in New Zealand and also doubling the refugee funding to ensure the resources are in place to cope with the increase.

Letting more refugees resettle in New Zealand does not solve the root causes of these wars. The onus is still on us all to put a stop to the needless imperialist wars and subsequent death and displacement.

However, in the meantime people need somewhere to live. Increasing the resettlement quota is something practical and meaningful we can campaign on and call our government to account for.

It’s the least we can do for refugees like Mehiyar and his family.

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20 Comments

  1. Sanctuary says:

    “…International authorities such as the UNHCR are well aware of the urgent need for other countries to allow more refugees in but few countries have responded to the cry for help….”

    That is because most Joe and Jane Six Packs simply see migrants from Muslim countries as having a bad reputation. They don’t seem to want to integrate and they often bring all their miserable religion based intolerance with them as well.

    What country wants to import all that trouble?

  2. Murdoch says:

    Sanctuary: New Zealand has followed the lead in stopping all new refugees from Africa or the Middle East unless they already have family here. This has been the case for the last three years.

    The same calls about trouble in New Zealand have been put out throughout our present history to stop immigrants. Every single time. And what has happened here? How much trouble were the Jews from the 30s and 40s? The Eastern Europeans from the 50s and 60s, the Indo-Chinese from the 70s and 80s? Each group had their own beliefs and where have these beliefs lead to any problems whatsoever. The fact is they’ve enriched our small nation into something much more interesting and cosmopolitan than it would have been.

  3. Jenny says:

    New Zealand still has a hangover from the racist White New Zealander immigration policy introduced in 1920.

    And the racist policies towards our Island neighbours, by repeated New Zealand administrations nations continue to this day.

    While predominantly white and privileged Australians, are free to come and go as they please, Pacific Islanders facing dire hardship, some of it caused by us, are actively discriminated against.

    Prime Minister Key actively trampled over the agreement to give climate leadership, that he signed with the leaders of the Island nations through the Pacific Islands Forum, in which our Prime Minister promised on our behalf to endeavor to cut back New Zealand’s CO2 emissions.[i] Within weeks of signing this declaration John Key gave Solid Energy $155 million to continue digging up coal. As well as preventing a windfarm that would have allowed the closure of the coal fired Huntly power station.

    I wonder whether John Key would have treated an agreement with white nations with such disergard?

    As well as playing an active part in the slow genocide that is drowning the low lying Island nations, New Zealand has turned down asylum to a Kiribati man seeking refuge from the climate change that is destroying his country.[ii]

    Tali I wholeheartedly support your call for this country to increase its settlement quota, but as well as this we need to widen the criteria and the definition of need.

    [i] http://www.majurodeclaration.org/commitments
    New Zealand quantitative renewable commitments under the Majuro Declaration are:
    1. 90% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2025 (providing this does not affect security of supply)
    2. By 2025, utilise up to 9.5 PJ per year of energy from woody biomass or direct use geothermal additional to that used in 2005

    [ii] http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9444559/Climate-refugee-loses-appeal
    The case, linked to global warming and sea-level rise, has attracted international attention….

    Teitiota’s evidence of the impact of global warming had been accepted by the IPT and he was found credible. He did not want to return to Kiribati because of the difficulties the family faced due to the combined pressures of overpopulation and rising sea levels…..

    Teitiota had family in Kiribati. While his standard of living would be less than what he had in New Zealand, it did “not amount to serious harm for the purposes of the refugee convention”.The appeal to the High Court was misguided, Justice Priestley said…..
    However, in a written judgment issued today, Justice John Priestley rejected the bid.

    A refugee under the United Nations convention was a person with a well-founded fear of persecution on specific grounds, he said.

    It was abundantly clear that people who fled due to natural disaster or even global warming had become refugees in a way not caused by persecution, Justice Priestley said.

  4. James says:

    Open Borders. There is no reason to decide that anyone doesn’t have a right to be here. Any immigration restrictions come down to racism. Open borders with full legal, social and political rights for immigrants.

    • Ovicula says:

      I wouldn’t support an open borders policy for refugees on logistic and resettlement grounds, even though I’d see it as the ultimate goal. We could probably start by taking in ten times as many as we do, and raise it from there, as we build the infrastructure. At the same time, we need to be rebuilding infrastructure for the Kiwis that are getting left behind. It’s well past the time when we should have stopped contributing to the problems of the world and started contributing to the solutions. Neoliberalism, as expressed by NAct and many in Labour, is one of the problems and close to being at the root of all our problems. It must go.

    • AndyS says:

      So if 20 million turn up on our doorstep tomorrow, and sign on the dole, you have no problem with that?

      • Jenny says:

        Do you mean 20 million Australians Andy?

        Not all future climate refugees will be from the Island nations fleeing the impact of rising seas and tropical super storms.

        For Australia, what are extreme droughts heatwaves and floods now, will become the norm by 2050, and be at the mild end of the spectrum by 2100. This most likely will see a huge exodus of Australians to more temperate zones. The new boat people will be overwhelmingly white.

        Will our racist immigration policies still stand up?

        Will the citizens of Kiribati and other low lying Island nations be left to die, while NZ gives refuge to millions of Australians?

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24675-extreme-weather-could-become-norm-around-indian-ocean.html#.Up9kBCpXspI

        • AndyS says:

          Hey I am a climate refugee from the east side of Christchurch, plus I am a whitey

          • Jenny says:

            You are obviously trying to make a joke of it. But hidden in your words Andy is something we take for granted without thinking about it. White people can pretty much go anywhere in the world as it suits them. We migrate to places like Australia or New Zealand or South Africa in search of a better way of life. But once in a position of power we make sure that others don’t have this right.

            • AndyS says:

              Yes it is a joke, when my house got destroyed in the quake but I am a whitey, so who cares?

              So remind me again, why are we rebuilding Christchurch if it is going to be inundated by sea level rise?

              Don’t the warmists believe their own propaganda?

              • Ovicula says:

                Any questions you have about the rebuild of Christchurch and your missing doorstep should be addressed to Gerry Brownlee. I suspect you already have his private number.

                • AndyS says:

                  Actually Ovicula, my house has been written off, so its a bit more than a missing doorstep.
                  What makes you think I have Gerry Brownlee’s number, or even that I support him and his party?

                  I guess there are special code words I use

      • Ovicula says:

        I have a problem with your total lack of comprehension. Did your doorstep fall on your head?

        1. How could 20 million people arrive in one day?
        2. Ah shit, forget it………..

        • AndyS says:

          Obviously, I wasn’t literally suggesting that 20 million people would turn up in one day.
          I was using a rhetorical technique

          However, in the uK, there is much talk of the “millions” of Bulgarians and Rumanians that might turn up and sign on the dole or otherwise burden themselves on the system, thanks to the EU open door policy

          Naturally, I understand that it is “Racist” to talk in these terms.

          So let’s say, for example, NZ joined a pan-pacific group of nations that was similar in structure to the EU.

          Would you have a problem if a large part of this pan-pacific population decided to move to NZ in a short space of time?

  5. Sanctuary says:

    Our country is exactly that – ours. If you were unfortunate enough to be born in a shithole, we may or may not decide to let you in. But only if you are useful to us and only if you will fit in. Life isn’t fair, in the giant lottery of birth location we lucked in and you lucked out. Tough.

    It is well past time that we had a proper population debate in NZ that included immigration policy. What is the ideal population for NZ? Can we all still own a holiday home at 9 millions like we did we we were but 3 millions? Are we underpopulated, or the rest of the world over-populated? We constantly hear the upsides of increased immigration, especially from the business and professional white middle classes that like the idea of cheaper workers, is globalised in its outlook and generally sees local nationalism from a homogeneous population as a threat to their privileged position in the globalised neo-liberal economy. The ruling class fancies the idea of having a cleaner from Ghana and a nice new cheap as chips Vietnamese restaurant on the corner but it is also shielded from the consequences of increased competition in the local labour market. We need a full, free and above all uncensored debate on these issues.

    • Murdoch says:

      If New Zealand wants to be a part of the world, then it needs to fulfill certain obligations. We could all live in a wonderful little boring isolation or we could do our bit on the international stage.

      We make 50,000 new permanent residents a year and only take 750 in our refugee quota. By all means lets have a debate on immigration but when it comes to refugees we will soon see how poorly NZ stacks up by international standards.

  6. Jenny says:

    It is the climate change debate that exposes the inherent racism embodied in our immigration laws as a hold over from the “White New Zealand” policies of the 1920s.

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/03-3

    In the Pacific nation of Tuvalu, rising seas and ocean acidification are eroding the coral and hurting fishing stock; a 2011 drought sapped the islands’ drinking water, forcing the closure of hospitals and schools. Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga likened climate change to a “slow and insidious form of terrorism against us,” and there’s strong resistance to the idea of relocation, which Maina Talia of Tuvalu Climate Action told Radio Australia (9/27/12) “is not a choice for the poor people. It’s just a choice for the rich people.”

    The cruelty and racism inherent in our immigration laws, is that Australians who per capita are responsible for more CO2 pollution than any other people on earth, are free to come and go as they please, while our Island neighbours most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the least responsible for it, are barred entry.

    Not a good look

    We either bar free entry for Australians or we allow free entry for Polynesians.

    To maintain the status quo is to announce to the world our status as a racist holdout settler society. The imperialist terror that was launched on this part of the world in the 19th C is being maintained into the 21st.

  7. Sam Mike says:

    why you want to cover Saudia Arabia,Qatar ,Turk and others who are supporting,sending and arming Islamic terrorist. why New Zealand suppose to take more when Saudia Arabia,Qatar ,Turk and others refuse to let them pass over their land and deal with them as if they are rubbish.those countries are the reason for Syrian war and they are to pay not others