New Zealand opens door for 750 Syrian refugees

2015-09-07 14:33
Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key. (Marty Melville, AFP)

Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key. (Marty Melville, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Wellington - New Zealand announced on Monday it will take 750 Syrian refugees over the next three years after coming under intense pressure to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Europe.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said 150 places would be offered to Syrians under the government's existing quota, and an extra 600 people from the war-torn country would be accepted through a special emergency intake.

New Zealand currently has an annual refugee quota of 750, which has not risen since 1987.

"Like most New Zealanders, the government is very concerned at the humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Syria and Europe that has visibly worsened in recent times," Woodhouse said.

The move represents an about-turn for the conservative government after Prime Minister John Key last week ruled out changing the refugee intake until next year.

'They deserve a compassionate response'

But the public demanded action after images of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi's tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach brought the human cost of the crisis into devastating focus.

The news comes just a day after neighbouring Australia, which has also come under pressure to do more said it intended to take more Syrian refugees but without upping its existing 2015-16 refugee quota of 13 750.

But in fresh comments on Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott left the issue open, saying he would await advice from his minister for immigration, currently in Europe, before announcing the government's final decision.

"The government's firm intention (is) to take a significant number of people from Syria this year," Abbott told parliament.

"The women and children in camps, in particular, the women and children from persecuted minorities in camps, they deserve a compassionate response from Australia."


Woodhouse said New Zealand's move was comparable to its response to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in 1999 when it took in an extra 600 refugees.

He said a review of refugee quotas would be completed by mid-2016, when numbers could be increased again.

"(But) there are practical limitations around our ability to provide enough housing, translators, health services - all factors we need to take into consideration," he said.

Critics such as Amnesty International say the wealthy nation of 4.5 million should be doing more, calling for an immediate doubling of the existing quota to 1 500.

"The government should be asking how much, not how little, it can do to help save innocent lives," Amnesty New Zealand director Grant Bayldon said.

"Doubling our refugee quota is the least we can do after 28 years without an increase."

Read more on:    amnesty international  |  john key  |  tony abbott  |  new zealand  |  syria  |  australia  |  migrants

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Men.24 Model of the Week: Wendy from Cape Town

Find out more about our featured model, Wendy from Cape Town


You won't want to miss...

Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
WATCH: Pornhub is giving users free access to premium content these holidays
5 top leg exercises for men
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.