Refugees

We currently have the sight of the New Zealand and Australian governments arguing over very small numbers of refugees. In New Zealand we have National and Labour vying for the moral high ground.

We know from the experience in Germany last year that the moral imperative of not torturing refugees, quickly runs into the problem that the goodwill of even the most generous recipient nation is exhaustible.

Angela Merkel took the heroic decision to let in as many immigrants as made it to Germany, which resulted in around 1 million immigrants in 2016. In 2017 the anti-immigration party AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland) won 94 seats in the Bundestag, and now Germany has no government.

Australia has a humanitarian program with a cap on numbers for 2105-16 of 13,750 immigrants, plus an additional 12,000 visas available for refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Hopefully that puts the 170 being discussed from Manus and Nauru into perspective.

The argument is not really about 170 people. That number is so small that no one really thinks it is any kind of problem. The problem is that we are no closer to knowing what is the right maximum number. Germany has demonstrated the truth of the old adage that “taking all the people from poor countries and putting them in rich countries does not solve anything”.

Maybe the New Zealand government can play a role in moving this debate forwards, but poking the Australian government in the eye with a sharp stick is not going to get us there. By playing politics with the lives of truly desperate people, the New Zealand government is no better than those anti-immigration forces that it disparages.

 

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