End New Zealand's racist "family link" refugee policy

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Why does New Zealand still have a racist policy that excludes the most vulnerable refugees?

As Kiwis, we were appalled by the Muslim ban in the United States, yet New Zealand currently has a policy that is just as discriminatory in nature. Since 2009, the Government has implemented a policy preventing African and Middle Eastern refugees from coming to New Zealand unless through an emergency intake, or if the refugees already have family in New Zealand. Such rules do not apply to refugees from other regions. This policy has been so restrictive that New Zealand has not been able to fulfil its refugee targets for the Middle East and Africa over the past decade.

The original justification for the family link requirement was “broad security concerns” concerning people from those two regions. However, every refugee must pass New Zealand’s rigorous background checks before arrival, so the ‘security’ excuse does not stand up to scrutiny but is rather a guise for discrimination.

Many families from the Middle East and Africa were forced to flee because protracted wars have left them with no hope of living in peace. Unfortunately, and unnecessarily, the family link policy makes it near impossible for vulnerable displaced people to come to New Zealand. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has called on countries to prioritize the resettlement of refugees from major crises, such as from South Sudan. However, New Zealand has only accepted a total of 12 South Sudanese refugees since 2011.

The message is very clear that Kiwis will not tolerate this kind of racist policy. Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway, has admitted that the family link policy is “discriminatory”, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says the policy raises "very serious questions about compliance with our international human rights obligations,” while the UNHCR has reiterated that refugee laws should be applied "without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin".

Time and again, we have expressed that our values include offering humanitarian support to refugees. We overwhelmingly supported the Doing our Bit campaign to double the refugee quota. Then in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, we banded together as a country to support the victims which included migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Even our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, filled many with hope with the promise that the road forward in New Zealand would be more inclusive and that #TheyAreUs.

As our Government is approaching its June deadline for reviewing the current refugee quota, we must make it clear that Kiwis will not accept racist policies targeting vulnerable refugees. Now is our time to call on Prime Minister Ardern to live up to her humanitarian rhetoric and remove the discriminatory restrictions of the family link requirement for refugees from the Middle East and Africa.