Call for New Zealand to raise refugee quota

29 November 2007

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The director of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Paris Aristotle, wants New Zealand to increase its annual refugee quota. He said that people on the run from war ravaged and politically unstable nations are living in detention camps longer than necessary.

"The proportion of refugees living in camps for five years or more has risen dramatically," he said. "Of the 20 million people who are of concern to [United Nations High Commission for Refugees], the number of people resettled was about 75,000. We can barely see a dent."

According to Aristotle, the average time refugees spent in camps had increased from nine years in 1993 to 17 years in 2003.

"Children are growing up in camps and that increases implications for their education levels and learning opportunities," he said. "When they settle in New Zealand or Australia they have a lot of ground to make up."

New Zealand is one of 16 countries that institute an annual refugee quota, set at 750 refugees a year.

A spokesperson for New Zealand's immigration authorities said that the nation had one of the highest rates of refugee acceptance relative to its population. Quota changes would need to be considered carefully.