Recently, we announced that when we are in Government, the Green Party will increase the refugee quota to 5000 (it is currently 1000).
Of those, 4000 will be directly resettled by the government (as under the current system) and another 1000 will be community sponsored placements – replicating a very successful programme that has been run in Canada for over 30 years.
I am personally very proud of this policy. To me, it demonstrates that the Green Party is committed to promoting openness and extending a warm hand of welcome to refugees and migrants.
The world around us has become an increasingly dangerous place for many people around the world. We are living through the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Sixty-five million people are displaced around the world, 21 million of whom are UN recognised refugees.
Families – people just like you and me – have had to flee from their homes through no fault of their own, leaving behind brothers, sisters, sons, fathers, mothers, daughters and other family members. Leaving behind friends, communities and jobs.
I know many of you reading this column have had to do it.
I respect the resilience you’ve shown. Refugees have also had to leave their lives behind – but under the fear of death and destruction. Too often – they cannot come back because there is no home for them to return.
We have a moral obligation as people who can help – to help those in need.
And New Zealand is not doing enough.
Australia takes more than 20,000 a year under their refugee quota – that is about four times as many as New Zealand does, per head of population. Canada takes in around 50,000. Lebanon has more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees. New Zealand’s paltry target of 1000 is not enough.
And I acknowledge the concerns that people have had.
Too many people here are struggling to get by. Too many are waiting for hours in line for crucial treatment. Too many people are living under bridges or in cars – without a home. But a compassionate and competent government can do both.
We can and should step up and help people in need overseas and at home.
Raising the refugee quota is the right thing to do.
James Shaw is Member of Parliament on Green List and the Party’s Co-Leader.