Responding to the European migrant crisis Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, said:
“This year, the UN said that more people have had to flee war, violence and persecution than at any time since the Second World War. This is a global displacement crisis, and a moral crisis of our time. It is an issue of humanity and it is the collective responsibility of the global community to address it humanely.
“The images we are seeing in the news – like the small Syrian boy washed up on Turkey’s shores – are the result of a lack of global consensus on dealing with this issue humanely. We should not be seeking to build more walls. Saving lives and protecting people must be the first priority for all governments – including New Zealand.
“Oxfam is calling on the New Zealand government to increase our refugee quota from the paltry 750 people a year currently offered sanctuary in New Zealand. It is our duty as global citizens to offer as many of the frightened and desperate as we can, a safe haven in New Zealand.
“More than 4 million people have had to flee Syria alone to escape the civil war. The situation in Libya has resulted in more people than ever taking the perilous Mediterranean route to Europe.
“Every one of these individuals is a person with a name and life story. Their journeys alone are often terrifying ordeals with accounts of horrific abuse experienced en route at the hands of smugglers.
“Remember that no one takes their children on a perilous journey in a rubber dingy to a place they’ve never been before, unless they have no other option.
“These are people who have been forced to flee their homes risking horrific deaths for themselves and their families. They do this in a desperate attempt to escape poverty, war and social unrest – all of the issues Oxfam works to ease and eliminate.
“Regardless of where migrants come from and where they cross the border, the global community needs to ensure there is sufficient capacity to receive, register, house and process them – that their basic needs are met and their rights respected, including the right to claim asylum.
“It is a disturbing reflection of the world’s values when the leaders of the richest countries squabble over the resettlement of refugees. And when we see wealthy countries not stepping in to support countries like Hungry and Greece to ensure processes are fair and costs evenly distributed. This is especially shocking given 86% of the world’s refugees are in developing countries – with Turkey, Lebanon and Pakistan each hosting more than one million refugees.
“New Zealand has a real opportunity here to extend a helping hand to those who need protection and assistance. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. It’s time to step up and share the burden that is being borne by the world’s poorer countries who are stretched to their limits. Migration is not a threat to be stopped; it is a complex phenomenon we all have a duty to manage. In fact, it’s how many of us arrived in New Zealand – as migrants fleeing persecution, conflict and poverty.”