Thursday, August 26, 2004

Refugee quotas

National and ACT are using yesterday's appalling statistics on the failure of New Zealand society to embrace refugees to call for cuts to the refugee quota. According to Richard Prebble, we shouldn't be admitting "illiterate Afghani camel drivers". Which tells us more about Prebble's prejudices about non-europeans than it does about the people who seek refuge here. I'm surprised he didn't call them "sand niggers"...

But National is right about one thing: we should be doing more to help refugees settle in and ensure that they can participate fully in our society. This means english language lessons, assistance with finding work, having overseas qualifications recognised or gaining new ones, and above all, changing the racist attitudes of New Zealand employers. Something you see time and time again in stories about refugees and immigrants is the difficulty they have with finding work (see this week's Listener for the latest example). A New Zealand accent is an unspoken requirement of many jobs, and this needs to change. Until it does, refugees will continue to be overrepresented in the welfare rolls, and highly-qualified immigrants will continue to drive taxis.