NZ is part of the refugee problem

Is New Zealand part of the refugee problem or the solution?

For decades New Zealand has been a willing participant in wars and interventions in the Middle East, which have been central in causing the current refugee crisis.

Why, then, does this country continue to refuse to play a tiny part in responding to the crisis we helped create?

Rather than thinking of the refugee crisis as one which this country needs to be charitable about, New Zealand actually needs to take refugees in order to make amends for its own actions.

The best explanation for why we should be taking thousands of refugees at the moment, is put by Alan Gamlen, a lecturer in human geography at Victoria University in his opinion piece, Why NZ should raise the refugee quota.

Here’s his crucial point: “New Zealand should act because it has helped create a world in which there are more refugees than ever before.

“Our involvement in Western military interventions in North Africa and the Middle East stretch much further back than the invasion of Iraq, right back into the era of the British Empire, whose post-World War One officials drew the arbitrary borders that ISIS is now fighting to erase.

“We are part of the problem and we have a moral duty to help to fix it”.

Veteran leftwing activist Mike Treen argues something similar in a very thoughtful blog post, Peoples Power starts to assert our basic humanity in refugee crisis.

He also points out that “The latest surge of human debris across the globe is a direct consequence of Western intervention in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan are the most recent to have been bombed into failed states”.

On the political right, Peter Cresswell seems to agree: “The basic fact is that many of the world’s new refugees come from war zones in which we bear some responsibility”. Continue reading

  • Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.
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