Marking World Refugee Day, a significant petition was presented to Members of Parliament, urging them to establish a new sub-category within the Refugee Quota exclusively dedicated to refugees from the rainbow community.
Hafsar Tameesuddin, a former refugee from Myanmar and the co-secretary general of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, spearheaded the petition and presented it to outgoing Labour MP Tāmati Coffey.
Tameesuddin emphasised the importance of inclusion and equity among refugee communities, stressing the urgency of implementing these changes. In an interview with 1News, she expressed concern that rainbow refugees are often overlooked both in refugee camps and during the resettlement process in host countries.
“We must ensure that no one is left behind, particularly those more vulnerable within the refugee population. Rainbow refugees face additional barriers, exclusion, and discrimination compared to other refugees,” Tameesuddin stated.
Joining Tameesuddin in presenting the petition was Murdoch Stephens, the initiator of the Double the Quota campaign, which advocated for an increase in the refugee quota a decade ago. Stephens, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies, acknowledged the slow pace of progress within Parliament. He highlighted that the campaign had pushed for an increase from 750 refugees, which had remained unchanged for 25 years, and celebrated the achievement of reaching the 1500 mark this year.
While the New Zealand government has blamed the global pandemic for not meeting its refugee quota earlier, Immigration Minister Michael Wood clarified that there are no plans to fill the quota retrospectively for the missed years.
Wood cited practical and administrative difficulties in supporting additional people under the current facilities. However, regarding the rainbow sub-category, Stephens recognised that the process would require time but urged the government to take the lead on this issue.
MP Tāmati Coffey remarked on the limited time before the election while expressing hopes for an expedited select committee process to address the petition’s concerns.
“A win would be just making it through the select committee process before Parliament rises and for the select committee to put forward recommendations in this area so that the incoming government can consider them as a viable option,” Coffey explained.
The Green Party also echoed these sentiments and called on the government to act immediately.
Ricardo Menendez March, the immigration spokesperson for the Greens, urged Labour MPs to pressure their own minister to implement the proposed changes, noting that they hold significant influence in Parliament to ensure a safe pathway to Aotearoa for rainbow individuals. Golriz Ghahraman, the Greens’ spokesperson on refugees, emphasised that the decision rests with the government and urged swift action to save lives.