New Zealand PM rejects claims it is taking on extra refugees
NEW Zealand Prime Minister John Key has rejected claims this morning the government is opening the gates to extra Syrian refugees.
This morning, United Nations refugee agency spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told TV3's The Nation that the government had agreed on taking on an extra 100 Syrian refugees.
A spokeswoman for Key told NZME: "As the Prime Minister has indicated, the government is looking at all the options available and we're not ruling out doing more across a range of areas.
"But we need to take advice on that to ensure any decisions made can be backed up with the same level of support and assurances we give to other refugees who come to New Zealand."
New Zealand currently takes 750 refugees a year but as the humanitarian crisis in Europe takes hold, there's been pressure to increase that.
Rummery could not immediately be contacted for comment, but early last year it was announced New Zealand would take 100 Syrians as part of our overall quota.
"That's a great start," Ms Rummery told The Nation this morning.
"And if New Zealand wanted to increase that, of course we'd be very pleased."
She said the UNHCR allowed countries to be flexible when taking refugees, which would potentially allow New Zealand to be specific about where any increase in the quota came from.
Race relations commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has been vocal on the need for New Zealand to increase its refugee intake.
"There are two things the Government must do. Firstly, they need to take immediate action to put an emergency intake in place," she told The Nation.
"Secondly they must increase the quota.
"We're in the review process now, so from 2016 to 2019 we can progressively increase the quota so that it's doubled in five years' time."
Dame Susan said it was hard to put a number on what the emergency intake should be.
She said if New Zealand needed to find the money "we can", especially after spending millions on a flag referendum and bailing out finance companies.
"If there's a need, we find a way."
Labour Party leader Andrew Little said he was introducing a bill to parliament on Tuesday for an emergency intake of 750 refugees.
Mr Little said our overall refugee quota should be about 1000, as that was about the level it would be if it had risen proportionally.
Earlier today, the Green Party labelled the reported intake of 100 extra Syrian refugees as disappointing.
"If reports are accurate, an extra 100 refugees to tackle such an enormous situation is a start, but a very disappointing start, unfortunately," Greens co-leader James Shaw said.
"Once again, National is trying to look like it is doing something, without actually doing anything of significance.
"New Zealand needs to increase its quota permanently, not just do the bare minimum for just this year."
The Greens will seek permission to table a bill in parliament this week that increases our quota to at least 1000 refugees a year.
Oxfam NZ's executive director Rachael Le Mesurier also welcomed the indication earlier today that the Government was willing to help more Syrians.
"We hope the Government will clarify its position as soon as possible, confirm the number of refugees from Syria New Zealand will resettle and by when.
"If New Zealand is indeed offering to resettle 100 Syrians this is a welcome first step, but more can be done. Mmore must be done, with urgency.
"The tragic and profoundly inhumane situation faced by refugees across Europe must end. Accepting a paltry 750 people into New Zealand annually while children wash up on the shores of Europe is an absolute affront to the decency and kindness of the New Zealand people.
We cannot stand by and watch this crisis unfold while pictures of such incredible suffering flood our screens."