Refugees – Doing Our Bit

Earlier this week I went to a really interesting talk by Murdoch Stevens, who is an advocate for refugees and began the campaign Doing Our Bit – Double The Quota,

He talked about how current narratives around refugees (and policies pertaining to them) are often conveyed in a way that makes the issues about migrants versus other vulnerable people. He explained the importance of reframing these issues, so that they do not place people in competition against each other for resources.

For example, there is all this talk about how it costs around $80,000 to resettle a refugee – around $28,000 a year for roughly three years in New Zealand. (At this point it is also interesting to note that to keep someone in prison costs $90,000 for just one year.) What this figure fails to acknowledge is that most refugees coming here are families, and 45% are children… mostly people that will in time end up contributing to the economy.

Murdoch Stevens talking in Kirikiriroa, 2017

But I believe that even if there was no direct financial incentive, there is still a moral duty. There is an ethical responsibility to do what we can to support vulnerable people, regardless of where they are from.

And in Aotearoa New Zealand that definitely means increasing the quota… this country ranks very poorly compared to other more economically developed nations – five times lower per capita intake than our neighbours in Australia, and 47 times fewer than Sweden, the top ranking nation.

There are strengths to having a quota system. It is good because it is a way of going out into the world and saying ‘yes, we want these people’. But the number really needs to increase (it hasn’t since 1987!), especially as -unlike many other countries- we get very few asylum seekers, because of our geographical isolation.

(For the difference between asylum seekers and refugees, click here)

Fortunately, from 2018 the NZ quota will increase from up to 750 people per year to up to 1000 people per year, but it is election year and nearly every party except National (who are currently in government) will increase it beyond that. So, fingers crossed for a change in government (for a multitude of other reasons, as well!).

Stevens said some really thought-provoking things. He pointed out the New Zealand does not often get into wars. New Zealanders like to spend money on humanitarian causes. New Zealanders are kind and generous people. And that there is compassion across the political spectrum (it isn’t just for ‘The Left’).

So let’s update the quota to reflect that 🙂

Image result for united people
Image from

To stay up to date with news relating to human rights, and people who are internally displaces, seeking asylum, or refugees, I find the following organisations useful:

To volunteer to support refugees in Aotearoa New Zealand, contact Red Cross. Other countries will have different organisations doing great work in your local communities too, so it can be worth looking around to see who is doing what 🙂

(I have worked as a Refugee Resettlement Volunteer for several families coming to New Zealand and it was probably one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have had).



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