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Keys says extra refugees will stretch services

Tuesday 8 September 2015 | Published in Regional


WELLINGTON – New Zealand’s emergency intake of hundreds of Syrians will stretch the country’s refugee services, Prime Minister John Key says.

The New Zealand government will offer 600 emergency places to Syrians fleeing their war-torn country at a cost of nearly $49 million, and a further 150 people will come here under the existing quota.

Of the emergency intake, 100 places will be offered this year and 500 more over the following two years.

Key said officials had advised him the additional numbers would put pressure on New Zealand’s capacity to re-settle refugees.

“Well, the advice I’ve had at the moment is that this is stretching the system, it doesn’t mean that you can never do more, or that you can’t expand that capacity,” Key said.

“For instance the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre needs further work if it’s going to handle more than the 150 at one time – translation services, whether people can get jobs, all of those other issues,” he said.

But Labour leader Andrew Little said New Zealand could handle more.

“What the government has announced is a start, it cannot be the end, we will continue the pressure, we will continue to do our bit to lift the permanent quota and we will see more Syrian refugees coming here, settling here, having the benefit of safety and security,” he said.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said it was time New Zealand had another look at its annual refugee quota that had been set at 750 for decades.

“The next issue is the quota, and I think that has to be increased too on a long-term basis,” he said.

The Green Party had been highly critical of the Government’s reluctance to take more refugees, and its co-leader James Shaw said the emergency intake of Syrian refugees was welcome.

“I think that 600 is a very good start and for those 600 people, that’s going to be lifesaving for them.

“They have clearly bowed to public pressure,” he said.

But Shaw said if refugee services were stretched, it was because the Government under-funded them.

Shaw said he hoped the National Party would also change its mind about opposing a Green member’s bill the party’s seeking to introduce to Parliament today that would increase the country’s refugee quota.

BuT Key said that would not be happening because, he said, a thorough review was planned for next year.