There is no refugee crisis (warning contains images of our consequences)

By   /   September 6, 2015  /   33 Comments

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It is time to do our bit. Rather than the investment on our relentless pursuit of free trade (terms and conditions apply), or the $26 million spent on a flag vanity project more about legacy than identity, it is time to show leadership among nations and reflect our unearned self-image.

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At no time since the Second World War has the world seen such huge human displacement.  Human misery is palpable, and the most appropriate emotion is one of empathy.  The pictures we have seen lately surely cause all of us to feel a sense of loss for our fellow human beings placed in such an intolerable predicament.

Yet, to our government, the ones who represent us – our ethos and what we stand for as a nation – there is nothing to see here.  Nothing can be done.

There is no refugee crisis – at least, there isn’t one that we have to deal with.  (lucky us)

This absence of compassion reflects poorly on us all.  Is this the point we have reached?  Are we so immune to human tragedy that we see no benefit in acting unless there is a financial benefit?  Are we a country run purely on spreadsheets and statistics?  What happened to principle?

This intellectual vacuum driven by focus group politics and an addiction to power does nothing for the development of our country.  We are poorer for it, and not in spreadsheet terms, but in pure terms of humanity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an outcome of the pain and human cost of the Second World War.  In 1948 the infant General Assembly of the United Nations passed this Declaration of the rights we deemed to be universal, acknowledging the importance for all, all of us, to have access to these rights.  At Article 14, the Declaration speaks to the right to claim asylum.

By 1951, a group of nations had come together to draft and complete the Refugee Convention.  Now over 60 years old, this document is truly one of the Twentieth Century’s most wonderful achievements.  It has literally and directly led to the protection of millions and millions of people.  It is our greatest human rights remedy.

The preamble to the Refugee Convention speaks to the importance of “burden sharing”.  While we baulk at the use of the term “burden” to describe human suffereing, it is a term of its time having been drafted in 1951.  Regardless, the underlying principle remains – that “developed” countries acknowledge that most refugees will be absorbed within the “developing” world, and for this reason developed states should pursue policies to alleviate that responsibility.

For us, a key way we do that is through our annual refugee quota.  Stuck at 750 now for thirty years, our intransigence shows an unwillingness to contribute and a presumption of no-responsibility.  New Zealanders cannot be content with this inertia.

However, the prime minister’s reliance on procedure (that there will be a review of the quota forthcoming) reveals a dismissive arrogance illustrative of an entire lack of empathy.  There is nothing – absolutely nothing – to prevent the government making a decision today to increase the quota.

The only obstacle is unwillingness.

Our unwillingness is compounded by our hypocrisy.  The government’s ill-advised decision to send troops to Iraq was premised on doing our bit.  Yet, the same principle is not applied here.

Further, our position on the Security Council is vacuous unless driven by principle and evidenced by our commitments.  Absent those commitments, and absent those principles, we are just filling in time wasting a seat designed for impact, but diluted by political cowardice.

It is time to do our bit.  Rather than the investment on our relentless pursuit of free trade (terms and conditions apply), or the $26 million spent on a flag vanity project more about legacy than identity, it is time to show leadership among nations and reflect our unearned self-image.

There are two tangible actions we can employ today – double the refugee quota, and actually use that Lazy Boy seat at the Security Council.

Come on, Kiwi, come on.

 

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About the author

Michael Timmins

Michael Timmins is an expert in international human rights law. Specialising in refugee rights, Michael has worked in Egypt, the United States, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan and his home country of New Zealand across roles in advocacy, academia, and government. He is also a member of the Child Poverty Action Group's Management Committee. Michael’s writing covers international human rights, counter-terrorism, international environmental law, rule of law and accountability issues, as well as anything interesting happening in international relations.

33 Comments

  1. Robert Atack says:

    “double the refugee quota” = 1,500 people from a potential 60 million?
    What a joke we are, ‘we’ are all crying crocodile tears, all of a sudden the MSM have woken up to the refugee situation.
    Very sad that little picture perfect boy, looking so much like the kids in our streets. Unlike say the DU babies in Iraq or the 500,000 children Bill Clinton helped kill during his time as the big cheese. or any of the up to 30,000 children dying in the worlds garbage dumps _ India, Mexico North Africa.
    Suddenly ‘we’ are growing a conscience, we’ve ignored the fact our ‘foot print’ is 100’s of times bigger than all these dead children, who wants to think of them while we are focused on real important stuff like flags,our scum politicians, retirement schemes etc etc.
    There just isn’t enough ‘stuff’ on this planet for everyone to live like we do, that means people have to die for us to live, the only way 7.2 billion people can survive (much longer) is for all of us to live lifestyles even the refugees would not like.
    The die off has well and truly started, as ugly as it is, it is reality, the only way to avoid this suffering is to kill yourself, and the only way to reduce the suffering of the children is for them not to be born.
    Post peak everything (except human stupidity) = the end of growth, that was as good as it gets. People are going to have to understand we face a very different future, than our wanker leaders are promising or can deliver, so get use to it folks.
    22After.com

    • Rae says:

      As grim as that sounds that is the future if we do not face, head on, our already overpopulation of the planet, forget about this mystical, magical 11 billion figure that our population is supposed to reach then level off and maybe begin to decline in some sort of orderly, kumbaya fashion. Not so, folks, what we see today is just a hint of what is to come unless we get our collective heads out of the sand and DO something. Do it now, with birth control and education or leave for our kids and grandkids in the most ghastly fashion imaginable.
      And yes, while we can perhaps open our arms and take some refugees, it will, in reality go nowhere towards sorting out the real issues.
      How the hell you get these fucked up governments to accept they need to educate and feed all of their population, and to get religion out of government, is beyond me, but that is all I can see by way of a solution. It will be no good once those who can get out have gotten out they go back to their old ways, no good at all.
      There is only a temporary solution in taking all those wanting to get out, and trust me, if I was one of them, I’d be trying for the front of the queue.

  2. Question says:

    That’s a bit over the top.

    Yes we should try to get population down to more sustainable levels. I think if the governments of the world make at least some attempt to do that it could be quite effective.

    At present they really are not make any attempt at all, except maybe China who I think are taking the breaks off.

  3. Dennis Dorney says:

    What you say is the truth. To compound the problem, those who are dying in this crisis ar the young and fit, and their children, while the old like myself (75 yrs) are encouraged to live to 100. If we do, where will we find the young and the fit, and their children, to look after us?
    As a society, we are truly mad.

  4. Andrew says:

    https://themuslimissue.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/family-of-drowned-toddler-aylan-kurdi-had-been-given-free-housing-in-turkey-while-fathers-story-is-full-of-holes/

    Family of drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi had been given FREE housing in Turkey, while father’s story is full of holes

    Abdullah Kurdi’s story is made-up. But his lies are now being used and rewarded by the media in full blown propaganda, while pressuring policies to force Europe to take in more economic migrants who have never experienced a war zone. The dead toddler pornography is a dream-come true PR campaign serving ISIS and their overwhelming Muslim supporters.

    Abdullah was never on that boat to watch his wife and children drown. That’s why he was the only survivor. The first time he learned of their death was from the hospital after the photos of his young son was circulating in the media. Listen to all the contradictions and holes in his story.

    This was an attempt to send his wife and children into Europe before his own arrival to apply for refugee status as a lone woman with children, while they never even lived in a war zone.

    • Well congratulations, Andrew, for dredging the bottom of the barrel. That has to be the most vile, racist post you’ve made in a long time.

      Referencing to a racist website (“The Muslim Issue”) doesn’t help your cause at all. After all, the website’s policy is to “Encourage a total ban on Islamic immigration”, “A military capable of ensuring peace at home and in the free world”, and deportation of muslims, “Encourage reversal of residency and citizenship to actively practicing Islamic migrants”.

      Those are your racist friends.

      As for your nasty piece of bullshit claiming that “…while they never even lived in a war zone” ;

      Ten of thousands of homeowners fled Kobani into neighbouring Turkey as IS militants stormed the town in October.

      Since then daily US-led airstrikes have rained down on the pivotal border town, which has become a focal point in the international battle against Islamic State, also known as IS and ISIS.

      In the past six weeks alone, coalition forces have launched more than 270 airstrikes in Kobani out of a total of 333 strikes in Syria, according to US military statistics.

      Succumbing to the increased pressure Islamic State rebels carried out more than 35 suicide attacks inside the town during recent weeks.

      The bloody battle for Kobani has resulted in the death of some 1,600 people, including 1,075 Islamic State fighters, 459 Kurdish soldiers and 32 civilians, the Observatory reported.

      Kurdish fighters now patrol the ruined streets of the Turkish border town, while others continue to fight IS in villages to the south east and south west.

      “The entire city is liberated. The clashes will start now in Kobani’s villages,” said Perwer Mohammed Ali, a journalist from the town.

      http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/555380/Kobani-Battle-Islamic-State-Jihadists

      The town was eventually liberated by Kurdish fighters. That is how he could return to bury his family.

      You really are a piece of work, Andrew. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself for writing this stomach-turning attempt at character-assassination.

      • Murray Simmonds says:

        Frank – its kinda interesting to dig around a bit on the site that “Andrew” quotes. For example, under the “About” tag, the aims of “The Muslim issue” WordPress site include (quote), to . . . .

        “Encourage a total ban on Islamic immigration
        Encourage the end of asylum policies.
        Encourage reversal of residency and citizenship to actively practicing Islamic migrants.”

        I suppose there will always be fools around who actively seek out sites like this to get a feed of the kind of garbage that they WANT to read, as a kind of “antidote to the truth”.

        You know, the kind of person who, on getting up at 6.30 am and seeing a brilliant sunrise, is happy the believe the 0.005% who are trying to tell him “Thats not a sunrise, its a sunset!”

    • Robert Atack says:

      The little bugger did not deserve to drown that is for sure, but the fuckwit parents sure as hell deserve the misery of seeing their child suffer, and that goes for all parents, you ignorant bastards need to suffer for what you have done.
      Bringing children into this shit hole should come with some pay back https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR8GzZF9u74
      It’s pay back time mother fuckers

    • Wise Man says:

      Andrew, that was disgusting. You’ve used an overtly racist, islamophobic website to try to validate your own xenophobia??

      What kind of human being are you???

      None of what you’ve written is true and is a fabrication from beginning to end. You are a piece of work,

  5. Ben says:

    Some may recall Enoch Powell and his warnings regarding lax immigration policies in the UK and the Rivers of Blood speech. His warnings have and are coming to pass and will continue to come to pass. By all means open your arms but it is future generations that will be wringing their hands at the results of your naivety.

    I fully expect a storm of abuse but since readers of this blog staunchly support free speech….

    • The only “rivers of blood” are in the Middle East, Ben, where British and US forces have invaded and bombed the hell out of the place.

      Free speech cuts both ways, and that includes you being called a racist fool for parroting other peoples’ garbage.

      Have a nice day and watch out for those “rivers of blood”.

      • Andrew says:

        Fine Frank, if you wish to import masses of these people then prepare to roll back most of the societal advances Europe has made since the end of the Medieval era.

        Expect to see women treated as second class citizens

        Expect to see the science replaced with blind faith and ignorance

        Expect to see democracy replaced with authoritarian clerics

        • Your bigotry is laughable. Just how paranoid are you?

        • By the way, Andrew, you do know where Europe got much of it’s science from, don’t you?

          During the period when Western civilization was experiencing the dark ages, between 700-1200 A.D., an Islamic empire stretched from Central Asia to southern Europe. Scholarly learning was highly prized by the people, and they contributed greatly to science and mathematics. Many classical Greek and Roman works were translated into Arabic, and scientists expanded on the ideas. For instance, Ptolemy’s model of an earth-centered universe formed the basis of Arab and Islamic astronomy, but several Islamic astronomers made observations and calculations which were considerably more accurate than Ptolemy’s. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Islamic astronomy is the fact that it built on the sciences of two great cultures, the Greek and the Indian. Blending and expanding these offen different ideas led to a new science which later profoundly influenced Western scientific exploration beginning in the Renaissance.

          http://www.starteachastronomy.com/arab.html

          Even our numeral system emanates from Arabic-Hindu systems – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals#Adoption_in_Europe

          So next time you rant on about these things, just remember that while Europe was thrashing about in the mud, during it’s Dark Ages, Arab scientists were developing astronomy and related sciences – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy_in_the_medieval_Islamic_world

          As for “democracy replaced with authoritarian clerics” or “women treated as second class citizens”, I think we can get that from Christian fundamentalists as well.

          Have you counted how many abortion clinics were bombed by so-called “Christians”?

          How many doctors were murdered by so-called “Christians”?

          And don’t forget this bunch of quacks; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church

          And if you really want to see the amount of blood-letting so-called “christian” nations can do, check out all the wars in Europe – right up to World War Two.

          No society or religion has a monopoly of intolerance. It’s a human thing, not a Muslim thing.

          Your comments speak more about your own irrational fears than anything set in reality.

          • Andrew says:

            Frank, you’re tying yourself in pseudo-intellectual knots. What relevance the Dark Ages and Christianity has to do with the current debate is beyond me.

            However there is history that is relevant to today:

            Europe and later America advanced and prospered because of the Age of Enlightenment and modern scientific reasoning. This is a thing Islam rejected and as a result is still stuck somewhere in the 14th century.

            • Perhaps it wouldn’t be too “intellectual” , Andrew, if you actually thought these issues through instead of parroting bigotry and making astounding claims that, with a bit of back-ground checking, are soon found to be false.

              You’re obviously afraid of things that go ‘bump’ in the night and it is clouding your judgement.

        • Samwise says:

          So Andrew, do you think we should have banned all French immigrants and tourists after the Rainbow Warrior bombing?

          Simple question. Do you?

      • Ben says:

        Predictable, Frank;if you disagree with someone just call them racist;end of argument. I think there are those in the UK,France and Spain who have suffered from terrorist attacks who would not be so dismissive and those attacks will only get worse. Sadly many of those entering Europe do not share your lofty liberal virtues. Many I suspect would despise you and your liberal friends and chuck you off the tops of buildings. But of course harboring that opinion makes me a racist. What does it make those who happily rape women and kill homosexuals? Of course all those stories are made up by the western media. Even a former Archbishop in the Telegraph is similarly deluded. A other damn racist.

        • Oh, so free speech works only for you, Ben?

          You might consider that the Eastern European refugees who escaped to the West after the Iron Curtain went up, did not import marxist-leninist beliefs with them. They were amongst the most vocal anti-communists you could imagine. As were Cuban exiles who fled to Florida after Castro over-threw Bastista.

          So your premise is based solely on your own bigoted views and not on any reality.

          Free speech, mate. Cuts both ways.

          • Ben says:

            I have no problem with free speech regardless of what you want to call me but many like you just see labels as a means of argument. Many of those who came as refugees from the iron curtain did in fact retain their political views and retained their loyalties. As regards those entering from Asia it remains to be seen how well they integrate and how many forms a deep hatred for the west. The signs from those already settled are not encouraging. I hope you are right but I suspect Europe may regret it’s open arms policy.

            • Many of those who came as refugees from the iron curtain did in fact retain their political views and retained their loyalties.

              You’re full of crap, Ben.

              I was part of the Eastern European emigre community and they were about as hostile to marxist-leninism as could be. Many of them took part in anti-communist uprisings in Poland Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.

              Your comments betray your depths of ignorance.

            • Lajos says:

              You don’t know what you are speaking of Ben. My sister and I escaped a system we did not want any part of. My late brother was hung when the Russians caught him. If you think we support the system we fled from then you are a sick deluded little man

              We were welcomed into this country in 1957 and that is the country I now love and raised my children in. One is a doctor and another a teacher for deaf children. I think we have repaid New Zealands generosity many times over.

        • Samwise says:

          Funny how bigots scream FREE SPEECH! to vent their prejudices, but don’t like it when the same free speech is used to call them out!

          You’re a bigot, Ben. Simple. That’s my free speech. Don’t like it, go back to Nth Korea.

        • Priss says:

          Ben, your racism is getting the better of you.

          These are murderers and rapists. You’re thinking of ISIS.

          The refugees are families escaping a war zone that has ripped their country apart. If you don’t understand that, you really are tragic.

          We took in 700 Polish refugees are WW2 and New Zealand wasn’t over-run by rapists and murderers then.

    • Priss says:

      “Rivers of blood” Ben???

      Really???

  6. Gumboots says:

    Good Article Michael Timmins, reminding us of the Declaration of Human Rights for one. pity about all the aggro and foul language of the comments.
    This government , run by the son of a refugee, has shown its true colours, it seems to be almost psychopathic in its lack of compassion. But I’m heartened by the grass roots campaigns springing up all over to support these refugees from war. Wars that the west has had a hand in creating.

  7. Roy says:

    Andrew and Ben you are both of you utterly pathetic.
    Kurdi’s story made up – who the FUCK cares? You? Whatever his story is, that AND WORSE have happened to somebody. And that little drowned boy certainly isn’t made up.
    With trash like you two in the country, any refugees will be an improvement on our average stats on ignorance and cuelty.
    Aylan Kurdi is his name. He’s died for your ‘right’ to talk the shit you do, you shameful pair of pricks.

    • Mike says:

      I bloody well care if it’s made up! I’m sick of the liars and manipulators! and some of the stupidly uninformed people we call politicians.
      It’s disgusting what’s being done by our Neocon dominated western governments in the middle east, the same abominations and twisting of truth that they engineered in Kosovo, and Libya, etc.

      http://johnpilger.com/articles/why-the-rise-of-fascism-is-again-the-issue

      and it’s disgusting to keep showing and using this poor little lad’s pathetic little body over and over again. What is wrong with YOU?

      Can’t you see how we are constantly being lied to, and manipulated?
      I’m sure their are many fine people deserving refuge in the middle east, generosity is an Arabic virtue. But changing the population demographics and culture ( In the space of a generation) of western Europe and Australasia is not in our interests, something our forefathers understood and went to war to prevent, and something our grandchildren may not thank us for, as I’m sure many people of my generation witnessing the upsurge of crime in Europe realise.

      It’s the manipulation of politicians, governments and news outlets by outside foreign interests in Europe the US Canada,etc, that needs to be addressed , and very quickly if we are to avoid

  8. Jasmine says:

    The refugee Syrian situation in Europe is undoubtedly hard to fathom from the far shores of NZ. The images of thousands of refugees stranded in Budapest waiting for entrance to the EEC is hard to watch, their agonising faces tell a gruelling story. The news article by NZ daily mail, about Abdullah Kurdi who couldn’t save his wife and two small boys from the terrifying wave on their small vessel that took their lives is extremely touching. I’m sure there are many more of these stories which the media cannot cover. I definitely have empathy for these refugees but in reality how will they fit into the NZ lifestyle? While I do agree with John Key’s humane point of view of increasing the NZ quota from 750 refugees a year, I believe this is not logical. In reality, how much difference will this really make to the millions seeking asylum? These refugees should be taken in, but at the same time should adapt to the New Zealand lifestyle, instead of these refugees clinging together in their own tight knit community.

    These refugees should be able to integrate perfectly well, respect NZ values, don’t abuse welfare, and greatly enrich NZ. It’s too easy to be “humane” at someone else’s expense. Not too many want to use their personal income and be personally responsible for refugees. Yet many think “New Zealanders should do it”? I believe no more refugees!! And if someone is so humane, they can bring some to live in their house, pay for everything, and enjoy the results of this “multicultural enrichment” in their own house.

    Do you think our government can afford it? There are already 622,000 people in New Zealand living in poverty and we do not need anymore to contribute to our taxes. I believe money should be spent instead on helping to upgrade the kiwi’s living in New Zealand, instead of letting new refugees in.