New Zealand is proud of its international commitment over many years to provide solutions to the world’s refugee problem. We’ve been resettling young Polish refugees since 1944. Approximately 33,000 refugees have been given the opportunity to seek a brighter future here in the land of the long white cloud. We have one of the highest refugee intakes per head of population in the world, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently recognized us as a model of best international practice during a recent visit to New Zealand.
In December last year we launched a whole-of-government Refugee Resettlement Strategy, aimed at delivering better outcomes for refugees settling here. This strategy reflects the importance we place on refugee resettlement, and helping refugees adapt to life in New Zealand. Importantly, it was formed with considerable input from refugee and community groups, who warmly welcomed the strategy.
However, National’s taking a firm stance on illegal immigration ventures and people smuggling. The smugglers who organize these boats put the lives of vulnerable people – including children – at risk for their own financial gain. We are determined to deter, and if necessary prosecute those who organize any attempt to illegally arrive in New Zealand by sea. The results can be tragic and must be discouraged. Since 2009, more than 600 people have died at sea on their way to seeking asylum in Australia – and they are just those that we know about. The Immigration Amendment Bill sends a strong message that New Zealand has formal, transparent, and well-established processes by which persons can, and should, seek to reside in New Zealand as refugees or asylum-seekers.
We’re committed to upholding our international good citizen obligations through the refugee quota, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We understand the complex challenges the international community faces in terms of refugees and asylum seekers. Last year it was reported that 42.5 million refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons existed worldwide. Those numbers are growing, and that increase is seen when people undertake dangerous and illegal ocean voyages. While a boat of asylum seekers has not yet reached New Zealand, we know New Zealand has been in the sights of the people who arrange these journeys.
We will continue to work with our international partners on combating people smuggling, and delivering on our international obligations. National recognizes that good settlement outcomes are important and we’re enabling this, the right way.