Immigration is a controversial topic in politics. There are differing views on whether there should be more or less migration. The refugee component of the immigration numbers are a relative small group of approximately 2,000 migrants. This number is made up of 1,500 refugees and around 500 family members. To be classed a refugee, a migrant needs to have been processed through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Official refugee status is gained through an interview process in which individual and family history is examined. Immigration New Zealand has a policy of bringing in the entire family of the applicant. Once in New Zealand, refugees spend time at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre where they are given information designed to help them to integrate into communities. Families are then settled in one of our settlement centres, such as Hamilton. Grouping refugees together helps create a sense of community. Many refugees arrive to New Zealand with nothing and it is a struggle for them to find their feet in an unfamiliar country and culture. Gaining employment or education is a key issue for our refugees. These families often need to access state housing and that is a big part of the immigration process. The decision to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota by 500 people in 2018 was projected to cost $146 million over 5 years as refugee services grow to accommodate demand. The current issue is whether the Government has provided enough resources to support these extra refugees when they do arrive. The Settlement Centre for Waikato is currently swamped and is trying hard to keep up with demand as they provide key services such as teaching English.
Therefore, when talking about whether New Zealand is meeting our international obligations to refugees, it’s not just about the number of refugees who we accept into the country but also how well these refugees are then supported to thrive in their new lives.
In July this year, New Zealand will lift our refugee quota from 1000 to 1500 per year. For 30 years New Zealand’s refugee quota sat at 750 people per year, leading to calls to double the quota. I’m proud that the Coalition Government, under the leadership of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has agreed to make such a significant and historic increase to the annual quota of refugees. This is the right thing to do. It fulfils New Zealand’s obligation to do our bit and provide a small number of people, displaced by war and disaster each year, a place to call home. This will change lives and not just for refugee families. Refugees become great citizens, who bring valuable skills and experience to New Zealand and help make our country a more diverse and vibrant place. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the quota increase was made possible through a significant boost in funding for refugee services in Budget 2018.
This included money to build and operate two new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre to extend the lifespan of the complex, meet the demands of the current intake of 1000 and help enable an increase in the refugee intake. The number of intakes of refugees and the size of each intake will also be changed from July 2020 while the current six-week reception programme at Mangere will be shortened to five weeks. As well as increasing the quota, we will work to increase the number and spread of refugee resettlement and support services across the country.
I would like to acknowledge the excellent work Hamilton’s Migrant Resource Centre, Red Cross and other agencies, and our host families do to support our new migrants.