- Date published:
8:30 am, September 3rd, 2015 - 54 comments
Categories: aid, International, iraq, john key, national, Syria - Tags: amnesty international, brian rudman, flag referendum, sheepgate
The devastating news from Europe and the Middle East and the refusal of John Key to even contemplate increasing our refugee quota made me wonder, how much do we spend on resettling refugees and how much would it cost to resettle more?
As to the first question National made a big song and dance in 2014 claiming they had increased the amount for resettlement of refugees from $7.6 million a year to $13.2 million. Without a hint of irony Michael Woodhouse said at the time:
We have an enviable reputation internationally for our work in resettling refugees from the world’s trouble spots and this extra money will ensure that refugees will continue to get the excellent level of help and support they need to settle into their new country.”
I am not sure how accurate his claim about the increase in spend is although the changing of budget category descriptions that has occurred always makes a proper comparison difficult. A cynic would think that the Government has changed appropriations descriptions so that a meaningful comparison is not possible. And the spend was in the context of outsourcing some refugee services to the private sector so the claim needs to be treated with some scepticism.
The general refugee category in the Immigration Appropriations suggests that in 2008 $16.553 million was budgeted by the last Labour Government for refugee services (M38). For the current financial year the amount was $20.190 million (again M38). Woodhouse’s claimed increase in spend is not easy to understand and the change appears to be no more than what would be required to compensate for inflation.
But if it cost $20.190 million to look after 750 refugees last year then applying a simple arithmetic approach doubling the money should double the number of refugees we can accept. And the number is still miniscule. Especially when you think of Germany’s proposal to accept 800,000 refugees this year.
Amnesty International has published this fact sheet showing relative performance of different nations in accepting refugees and has urged New Zealand to double its quota. There has already been a spirited discussion on last night’s Daily Review post.
Amnesty International’s conclusions include these:
Why should New Zealand accept more? One good reason is that as a member of the Security Council of the United Nations it should be setting an example. Another is that the numbers we accept are so low and it would be so easy to double the number accepted with barely measurable change to our population.
Brian Rudman sums things up well in this column. He said this about the Government’s response:
What is missing is any sense of urgency, despite a nightly procession on our television screens of bodies found in abandoned freezer trucks, dead bodies floating in the sea, and processions of the doomed and despairing, trailing along European railway lines, too exhausted to run from harrying police.
Our Government is happy to spend $25.4 million on sending 143 soldiers to stir up the Iraqi hornets’ nest, but has no extra money to assist the burgeoning flood of victims.
Meanwhile back home, the Government is happy to allow an expanding inflow of economic migrants, despite the obvious crisis it’s causing in the Auckland housing market.
Statistics New Zealand recently revealed that 59,600 permanent and long-term new migrants had entered the country for the year to July.
The numbers for July alone were a record 5700.
The Government’s only reaction to this pressure point is to offer higher bonus points to skilled migrants who promise to work outside Auckland for a year. For those with money in their pockets, the more, it seems, the merrier. Plus their dependants.
Would it be so hard to design a similar scheme to target refugees as well.
From all accounts, Syria and Iraq are whole nations on the move. Doctors, teachers, businessmen, nurses included – a whole cross section of society.
Refugees have enriched our society in the past. One even produced a son who became a Prime Minister.
They will again. If we’re smart enough to let them in.
For less than the cost of the current flag referendum we could easily accommodate more refugees. Throw in the cost of the Saudi sheep farm and there would be more than enough money to go around. That this Government thinks resettling sheep in a Saudi desert and trying to chose a flag are more important than resettling fellow human beings in the most trying of circumstances clearly sets out its priorities.
When Helen Clark stepped up to accept Tampa boat boys it made me proud. John Key's failure to raise quota makes me ashamed. #DoTheRightThing
— Grant Robertson (@grantrobertson1) September 2, 2015