Can we take more refugees?

Refugees are people who need to escape from danger such as war, or danger because of their personal beliefs, especially religion. New Zealand has a quota of 750 refugees each year. These people are chosen by UNHCR.

New Zealand has accepted refugees since the end of the Second World War. In 1956, for example, we took 1,000 Hungarian refugees. In the 1980s, we agreed with the United Nations to take 750 each year and this quota has stayed the same since that time. Now Amnesty International has suggested that New Zealand could take more refugees. Our country is richer than it was 30 years ago. We have become more multi-cultural in that time and perhaps we are better at accepting people from different cultures now.

Last week, we heard of a boat, perhaps heading for New Zealand, with 65 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma. Some of these asylum seekers said that Australian officials paid the people smugglers to turn around and go back to Indonesia. The Australian Foreign Minister says that is not true. Australia has had many boat people arriving in their country, mostly from Indonesia. These are people who might, or might not, be genuine refugees.

Australia’s quota this year is 13,750 refugees. The population of Australia is 24 million which is 6 times greater than our population.

Listen to July 22nd 2010 to hear more about boat people heading for Australia.


• quota – a maximum, a number which the government decides on
• chosen – past participle of choose
• UNHCR – United Nations High Commission for Refugees
• Amnesty International – an organisation trying to protect people’s human rights around the world
• asylum seekers – not chosen by UNHCR; they say they in danger in the home country
• people smugglers – take money from asylum seekers to smuggle them into a safe country
• genuine – real; they are not in danger but want a better life


1. Last year about half a million asylum seekers crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, Malta or Greece, and this year, more are coming. How can Europe cope with the numbers?
2. Thousands have died in the Mediterranean in over-crowded, wooden boats. What can be done to stop this from happening?
3. Are asylum seekers likely to reach New Zealand by boat?

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