There are ninety towns in New Zealand with a population between 5,000 and 20,000. If each of those towns took ten refugees, and our larger cities took 100 each, we’d triple our quota to nearly 3000 without any going to Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington.

New Zealand would be a proud example of practical, no-nonsense compassion. 


This week, 11,000 people in Iceland offered to house a refugee in response to a Facebook campaign. The country is only obliged to accept 50. A couple spent millions buying a boat to rescue families drowning in the Mediterrean. A Turkish couple spent their wedding day feeding 4000 Syrian refugees.

We could make a difference too.

Imagine putting your children in tiny boats, pulling them through razor wire, leaving home without enough food and water because the alternative is even worse. 

If your sons are the wrong religion they will be executed. Your daughter faces a future as a sex slave. If your brother is gay he will be thrown to his death from the roof of a building.

We cannot turn our backs on the image of Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy, face down on the beach, innocent and dead.

But while most people secretly thank God it is not happening to our families, they also worry about whether refugees will integrate into their town, or whether bringing more in will make New Zealand more unsafe. People are not racist because they worry about these issues. Concern for your own security is natural and understandable. So if we are going to do our bit, people need reassurance that we're being practical about their fears and the real risks.

One source of reassurance is that surveillance of jihadist groups with contact to New Zealand has been increased. Anyone, whether a new migrant or a refugee coming to New Zealand, will be checked thoroughly.

The screening process needs to be tough. Many didn’t like the increased powers of surveillance introduced last year. I accept them as the price we pay to reassure New Zealanders that their safety is important. As long as we also increase surveillance of our spies and as long as surveillance is conducted lawfully, then increased security screening is part of the price we pay for opening our door to more refugees. 

New Zealanders also need reassurance that resources and support exist to help families to integrate. We have excellent refugee programmes, run out of Immigration New Zealand, with the help of Red Cross. They have a lower profile than the arrival of refugees would have but those services have a track record that should increase confidence.

I believe that as employers and neighbours see how well integration works, the contribution of new arrivals to our national culture makes the priority worthwhile even from a 'what's in it for us' perspective.

We have to state where the extra money will come from. Faced with an extraordinary humanitarian crisis I would be happy to see work on new roads and trains slowed down, or debt repayment slowed a little. Compared to those budgets the costs involved in re-settlement are trivial. The transport or debt spend would be delayed by a few hours to fund the entire resettlement process. I can spend one more day in a traffic jam as a contribution to reducing suffering. Can't you?

If people were being killed outside our house because of their religion or their race, we would open the door and rush to help. We would expect the police to intervene and social services to provide support. The refugee crisis is far away, but it's also much worse. We can make a difference.

The other thing people say is ‘why don’t we do more to fix the problems in Iraq or Syria or Libya rather than give people asylum here?’ We do need to do our bit to fix the source of the problem. But Syria won't be fixed for twenty years.  

Last year I said New Zealand should have joined an international intervention in Syria after Assad bombed civilians with chemical weapons. We have a responsibility to protect innocent civilians  no matter what country they live in. Therefore there should have been an international response to Assad and his horrific crimes. But there wasn't. We can and should do our bit. Sending 143 military personnel to help protect people from ISIS in Iraq helps. But the families on the border now can’t wait.  

New Zealand at its best has always had a hard head and a soft heart when in comes to injustice in the world. We can act  compassionately when we are also hard-headed about the costs and risks. People need to be reassured that we’re being practical in managing the risks, and then we can do our bit.

Comments (6)

by Murray Grimwood on September 04, 2015
Murray Grimwood

Pagani hasn't read any of the links I've put up on Pundit so far.


by Nick Gibbs on September 04, 2015
Nick Gibbs

You've hit the nail on the head in everything except joining the fight with Assad. Kiwis coming home in body bags isn't going to fix Syria.

by Peggy Klimenko on September 05, 2015
Peggy Klimenko

@ Murray Grimwood: "Pagani hasn't read any of the links I've put up on Pundit so far."

So it seems!

by Murray Grimwood on September 05, 2015
Murray Grimwood

The following is a party political broadcast

The following is a party political broadcast

We will avoid anything inconvenient, facts can be denied if we call them opinions, ignorance is best continued.

The following is a party political broadcast.

Sigh. Trouble is, the current Green narrative is equally socialist. That doesn't answer the bigger problem, although altruism is ultimately the correct tactic.


by Charlie on September 05, 2015

Not a bad plan if you could keep them in the rural village rather than migrate to Mount Roskill....


by Afrida Raisa on September 17, 2015
Afrida Raisa

Great piece! It is also truly disappointing to see John Key not having the guts to pull his weight and help with the refugee crisis as much as he should. This has been an ongoing issue and the urge to increase the the intake has not only been around this year. He has had enough time to review the plan to increase the intake of refugees permanently, yet his priority and efforts are going towards the flag? and let's not forget his plan to change the design of the New Zealand currency. All these changes, which are not important at all as much as the lives of others are going to cost millions. This can be going towards bringing in refugees, increasing the resources and services, providing much more resources towards resettlement programmes which help refugees with housing without the assistance from government and also the suggestions which Josie Pagani has made. Certain organisation, such as red cross assist refugees with settling in NZ, guiding them when they seek for jobs and education.

There are only 5 cities where refugees are being resettled to in New Zealand and not many known places where refugees can get the support that they need. We do definitely need to take in more refugees as this is an emergency crisis and delaying any further assistance will put more innocent lives in danger. While the numbers should be increased, there should also be aid sent to Syria and other countries dealing with such tragedies where people are being displaced. We must take in people and help rebuild the country they once called home and we must increase the resources in our own country to help refugees settle in here with much more comfort. Some may say that it is not our duty, but it is what I call showing signs of humanity, which I believe the world is severely lacking in sadly.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.