Boatpeople need our help, not our fear



I’m afraid John Key has failed the empathy test. He knows that thousands of refugees have been fleeing persecution from Sri Lanka, Burma and elsewhere, many dying at sea. Yet all he can see in the possibility of one boat making it here is a threat, justifying the legislation he passed allowing the asylum seekers to be imprisoned on arrival.

Why not take the opposite stance. We should be upholding our moral and legal obligation, under the Refugee Convention, to welcome all asylum seekers, whether they arrive by air or boat. Fewer asylum seekers now arrive at our airports because of Advance Passenger Processing at foreign departure points and the penalties on airlines if they let on any passengers with insufficient travel documentation. Only 69 asylum seekers were granted refugee status last year. We could so easily handle the 65 asylum seekers on the boat alleged to have left Indonesia for New Zealand last month.

Whether the boat was actually headed to New Zealand, or could have made it, we’ll never know. The information is sketchy and is amplified by scaremongers like our Prime Minister. We’ve been treated to similar scares periodically over the last few years. They have come to nothing. What we can say is that such is the distance from Indonesia, over Australia and across the Tasman that a boat arriving in New Zealand would be an exceptional event. It wouldn’t be a particularly profitable venture, because the boat used would have to be much more substantial (and expensive) than the rickety craft used on the short distance from Indonesia to Australia – and the boat would be confiscated on arrival in New Zealand.

Momentum is building for an increase in our annual refugee quota from the current 750 places to 1000 or 1500. Refugee support groups, Amnesty International, the Race Relations Conciliator, the Human Rights Commission, the Green Party, and even Winston Peters (in a qualified way) are for it. Even Labour has come round, after 9 years in government stubbornly refusing to raise the quota. When in Parliament I regularly argued for the quota to be raised to 1000 only to be met with the weak argument (which John Key repeated today) that we have to first make sure that those refugees coming in now are well catered for.

Are we really such a miserly society that we can’t improve the lot of refugees here and increase the quota at the same time? We could start by raising the quota to 1000 and improving settlement support (including restoring government funding to New Zealand’s only asylum seeker hostel, run by the Auckland Refugee Council, which was cut off three years ago).


  1. I feel as if you don’t have any empathy for the current people in NZ.

    As far as housing prices and costs are concerned.

    These refugees may be running from wars or persecution. But that doesn’t just give them the right to further drain our resources which don’t really help the people here.

    I will stick with JK on this one. Don’t raise the quota.

    • And yet, Jack, your esteemed Dear Leader thinks nothing of allowing tens of thousands of migrants into NZ annually; to Auckland primarily; which puts way more strain on our resources than 750 refugees (spread over the whole country) ever could.

      • Because I agree with one of his points. You think he is my leader… He is your leader… And is leading NZ.

        You have gone out of scope here. I am not talking about people entering here legally…

        These ‘migrants’ come here and not all of them are poor… They are buying up as much land as they can and are making a nice profit off Kiwis.

        I know of one case. A family from some country near a war at this time. This family has a handicapped child who traveled to NZ with the parents as a refugee. This family received from the government:

        A house, a special van, an allowance, special care at an institution and many other things costing the tax payer.

        I can’t even understand what this family has gone through. And I sympathize with them. But when I read about children in this country being mistreated and going hungry. I think ‘What are we doing to help our people’.

        Then I realize that this government doesn’t intend to help people. Only 1%ers.

        • Oh for goodness’ sake Jack, you’ll start using the word “lebensraum” next.

          Get a grip man, no one is coming all the way out to NZ just to kick you out of your house. They just want the same chance that you and I and other Kiwis have to live a relatively peaceful life without worrying about the physical reality of being persecuted by despots and goon squads.

  2. JK needs to remember his mother was a refugee/migrant to NZ, fleeing Nazi persecution in her homeland Austria!

    Obviously compassion, empathy and understanding towards the less fortunate is something quite alien to the PM!

  3. NZ can absorb a couple of hundred more refugees in dire straits. To consider there is no short term monetary gain in allowing this, is shallow thinking – and does nothing for our image as a caring country.

  4. John Key is a classic psychopath – he acts like a corporation. Like any corporate entity he is able to simulate empathy; he can learn the noises. But the sentiment is not in his DNA.

    • If he’s not a psychopath, he’s certainly a narcissistic sociopath. Look up the symptoms online – he has all of them!

  5. When will the ‘adults’ get it – There is no money left. It’s been pissed up against the wall and there’s nothing left. Don’t believe me??? Read it and weep…

    NZ Debt $ 92,233,529,565
    NZ Debt per Citizen $20,350
    Interest per Year NZ$4,516,286,356


    We are in dire straights here. I have two fears.

    One is seeing my people go out like the Rapa Nui if the global situation turns South and credit gets turned off. Tell me what will all those on the dole, the pension or ‘public service’ do for food?
    The second is being taken over by the Chinese-communist, we are already in their pocket.

    And here you are Mr Keith Locke, wanting to bring in more people to sit on the dole. You’re almost as bad as the other rabble running the show…

    Quite frankly, this working man is depressed and ashamed
    Print my comment or not because to tell you the truth, I really couldn’t give a flying f*ck.

    • JK and his cronies have one thing going for them.

      They know Kiwis wont do anything if the shit hits the fan.

  6. One of the reasons I like NZ are the thousands of miles of cruel, cold sea between us and the third world.

    The 21st century will see not thousands of refugees but hundreds of millions, from failed states.

    It isn’t going to be pretty

    Watch this space – and thank your lucky stars you live here!

  7. The entire issue of refugees needs to be debated in relation to the much bigger issue of world population, which is at the bottom of virtually all of our problems (except the financial one). Yes we can take more refugees and reduce the number of other immigrants accordingly, but there is an absolute population for NZ that we cannot exceed with impunity.
    Furthermore if each world citizen consumed as much the typical New Zealander we would need the resources of 1.6 Earths to provide that life style. So we need to set a limit on our immigration and also reduce our personal consumption. No one ever seems to talk about this.
    So far as total population is concerned we need to reduce it to perhaps 5 billion and stick at that figure. How? I dont know. Nor do you. But if we had a much lower total population the refugee problem would largely disappear. Refugees are looking for security and living space. Too many people+too little land = refugees.
    This equation has been played out frequently throughout history. It brought down the Roman Empire. I hear what Keith Locke is saying but empathy is not enough.

    • The problem is not the number of people on earth, but the extremely inequitable distribution of resources. In the First World, food is literally thrown away to keep the prices up, while in the Third World, people are starving to death. This is nothing short of insane!

  8. What sort of leftists are obsessed by the country’s lack and debt? The power of the left comes from being able to think outside of the false choices offered by the right – between helping our poor and doing our bit for refugees. Yes, in the short term there are constraints to overcome, but in the long run refugees have proven to be of much value to both the economy and society… I’d expect this sort of resistance from conservatives, but not from readers of TDB.

  9. Oh dear poor Keith! What a can of pressurised worms you’ve managed to open up here.

    You’ve managed to catch them all with your blog, survivalists, isolationists, neo-liberal economists, as well as us slavering hippy commy spendthrifts and pointy picky niggling civil servants.

    I’m just glad this is a blog on the interweb and not a discussion in the local community hall…

    You are absolutely right Keith we do need to do more to play our part in caring for people as well as the planet.

    And the splattering spittle just goes to show how difficult it is to do this. Good ol’ Kiwi insecurity raises its thick necked head and soon we’re all on the beach with pitchforks and flaming torches waiting for the arrival of the undead dead.

    Goodbye compassion, goodbye wisdom, goodbye enlightenment. All sold out. Check with the banks first.

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