Thursday 30 April 2015

Easing the Mediterranean refugee crisis

I've just written to New Zealand's Minister of Immigration in support of a proposal I've come across to ease the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

To be honest, what I'd really like him to do (and what I've written to him about in the past) is to actually allow people to seek asylum in New Zealand.  Currently NZ Immigration puts considerable effort into making sure asylum seekers never reach our shores.  We actively prevent these people from exercising a legal right, presumably in the fear that, if they come, we may find them legitimate refugees and have to let them stay.

However, I don't think I'm going to get any traction on that, but maybe traction on this proposal is possible: after all, it doesn't just come from me - it comes from the UN's special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants!

My letter is below.  Maybe you would like to send something similar?

Dear Hon. Mr. Woodhouse,
I am horrified by the recent deaths in the Mediterranean of people trying to cross into Europe.  I am writing to you in support of the proposal by François Crépeau for these people to be resettled by the UN in an organised manner so that they no longer have to take such risks to reach sanctuary.

He proposes that the rich nations of the world take in a quota of Syrian refugees each year for the next five years.  Based on the number he is proposing Australia to take, I estimate New Zealand's annual quota would be around 1000 per year.  This would be in addition to the refugees we admit under our current quota.

I understand that this would involve more than doubling our current refugee intake.  However, the situation in Syria is extreme, so extreme measures are called for.  In addition, as François Crépeau points out, such measures are not without precedent.  In 1979-1980 New Zealand took in around 1500 Vietnamese refugees under a similar UN scheme.

I strongly urge you to support this proposal on behalf of New Zealand.

Moreover, I encourage you to offer New Zealand's expertise to assist with the second part of his proposal.  This concerns African migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to take up low-skilled jobs in Europe.  His proposal to assist them seems similar to the highly successful Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme in New Zealand.  I feel you could offer valuable advice in establishing a similar scheme in Europe.

Thank you for your consideration of these matters.


  1. Keith Wansbrough13 May 2015 at 00:04

    NIce! Did you get a response?

    1. I got a 'thank you for taking the time to write - your opinions have been noted' kind of response.

      I don't have much hope that anything will come of it, but our current government is quite populist, so if lots of people said similar things then there's a chance something will happen. To that end I've tried to circulate this blog post a little.