Increase refugee quota now

Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke said today the Government should increase the refugee quota now, instead of waiting until after the next election to make a decision.

“I’m encouraged by comments quoted from the Prime Minister yesterday that she would personally like to see New Zealand take more refugees.

“There’s little point just talking about it though. If we’re going to take more refugees, we should do it now instead of leaving them displaced and unsettled for another year.

“Raising the quota from 750 to 1000 at least shouldn’t be too difficult as even Australia takes in proportionally more refugees than that.”

Mr Locke said if the quota was increased now, New Zealand could move to help defuse the Australian asylum seeker crisis.

“The Prime Minister could offer to take some of the asylum seekers who have been languishing in detention centres for many months and process them here.

“Obviously it would be a relatively small number, but it would be a sign of goodwill and would put pressure on Australia to reassess the way they are treating asylum seekers.”

Mr Locke said he was disappointed that the Prime Minister would not comment on Australia’s poor treatment of asylum seekers.

“Detaining asylum seekers in these harsh conditions can not just be written off as internal politics,” said Mr Locke. “By keeping quiet about it, we are putting diplomacy before compassion.

“It is an international scandal which New Zealand is morally obliged to address. Many refugees in the Australian detention camps have gone on hunger strikes as a cry for international support and we must answer their call.”