Refugee Council
of New Zealand



Judge Coral Shaw


Asia's refugee crisis, a shared crisis: New Zealand should take in our share of stranded Rohingya

22 May 2015

While Australia takes a back step in its refugee policy, the Refugee Council of New Zealand urges the New Zealand government to take leadership in the Pacific and accept refugees from among the displaced Rohingya and Bangladeshi for resettlement.

As a country that forms part of the Asia-Pacific neighbourhood, New Zealand should demonstrate leadership in the area of refugee protection, as it is has done in the past.  While New Zealand has no legal obligation under the Refugee Convention to which is a party, to take refugees until they arrive within our borders, nonetheless, in the spirit of the Convention, we need to step up to the plate when there is a refugee crisis in our neighbourhood, as we did some years ago in the case of refugees on the ship, The Tampa, and at least extend an offer to accept some of the people who are suffering in the present refugee crisis. 

Recently,opposition leader Andrew Little and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters,bothpublicly stated the need to increase the number of refugees we take in each year.  That number presently stands at a paltry 750, the same as it was in 1987.

The official position of Myanmar is that its ethnic Rohingya minority who constitute the majority of refugees now experiencing extreme conditions aboard unsafe vessels, do not belong to Myanmar, but are illegal immigrants.  It accepts no responsibility for them.  Do we, like Myanmar, “wash our hands”?

Calls for increase in refugees taken in by NZ

21 March 2015

Dame Susan Devoy is leading calls for an increase in the number of refugees taken in by NZ.

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Climate change refugee's case heads to Supreme Court

1 February 2015

The lawyer for a man seeking refugee status on the basis of climate change says the world is facing an emergency and it's starting in the South Pacific.

Earlier court appeals have failed but now he's taking the fight to the Supreme Court.

Iaone Teitiota and his family fled the low-lying Pacific island of Kiribati eight years ago. He's an overstayer but his lawyer claims the effects of climate change should entitle him to refugee status.

"Our argument is basically that he is being persecuted indirectly with the inability of the industrialised world to ameliorate CO2 emissions," says lawyer Michael Kidd.

That's destroying the habitat and lives of those who live on Kiribati.

"Fresh water's being polluted by human excrement, drought, high temperature, flooding; two-thirds of the coconut trees have died," says Mr Kidd.

The Refugee Council says over the next 10 years 150,000 people may be affected by rising seas, loss of arable land and contamination of fresh water and that the International Refugee Convention, signed by many countries, including New Zealand, is inadequate.

"It was written in 1951, more than 60 years ago, and it was written for specific political refugees from persecution, never envisaging any possibility of climate change," says Refugee Council spokesman Gary Poole.

Mr Poole says New Zealand now has a unique chance, with a seat on the UN Security Council, to develop protocols to address the problem of climate change evacuees.

Mr Teitiota's lawyer says his case is the only one of its kind currently before the New Zealand courts. He hopes it will be heard by the Supreme Court within the next few weeks.

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