The new government needs to move back a strategy that stops Africans claiming refugee status – and undermines the human rights at the establishment of our refugee policy, argues Murdoch Stephens.
Politics make strange bedfellows and the campaign to double New Zealand’s refugee quota has been bunking down with some truly odd folk as of late.
Australians on the far right have been insisting New Zealand increase our quota to match theirs – roughly four times our intake on a per capita basis.
If we want the right to comment on their deplorable treatment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island, they say, we first need to increase our quota.
These keyboard warriors seem reluctant to accept my thanks, as evidenced by their confused responses to my tweets of solidarity. (In fact multiple accounts making these claims have been suspended for reasons unstated by Twitter).
Another bizarre phenomenon has been Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton making noises about offering humanitarian protection for a group of African refugees under threat of being displaced from the land they own.
If that all sounds quite unlike Dutton one needs barely dig deeper to see that the refugees in question are ten thousand white South African farmers, not the South Sudanese or Eritreans.
In New Zealand, some social media users reflexively respond to the campaign to double the quota in a similar manner. They offer a qualified “yes”, but only if we bring in members of a specific group who they feel are both persecuted and more similar to the unexamined mass that is New Zealand culture.
Sometimes the special group are persecuted Christians; other times they’re simply white, like Ukrainians displaced from the east of the country. In recent times the “yes, but” lands ends with a reference to the same South African farmers that Dutton is fast-tracking into Australia.
It’s important to be clear that, as with the right to free speech, the right to refugee protection is universal. Refugee protection must be afforded to every person who has had to flee their country because of persecution or a legitimate fear of the same.
There is absolutely no reason that a white South African farmer who fits the criteria would be excluded from becoming a refugee. This is the strength of universal human rights: it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, brown or pink, indigenous or from colonising stock. If the UNHCR, or a signatory to their convention, accepts your claims of persecution then you are a refugee.