Immigration

'Right thing to do': NZ set to raise refugee quota in 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) Source: AAP

New Zealand's government has confirmed it will raise its refugee quota from 1000 to 1500 each year, but that it won't be doing so until July 2020.

New Zealand's government has announced it will significantly lift its refugee quota, but not until near the end of its political term.

Jacinda Ardern's Labour party last year campaigned on raising New Zealand's annual intake of refugees from 1000 each year to 1500 in its three years in government.

Questions about whether the policy would happen were raised in recent weeks amid speculation that Labour's coalition partner party, NZ First, may not back the increase.

On Wednesday, Ms Ardern - NZ First leader Winston Peters by her side - announced the number would rise to 1500, but only from July, 2020.

"This is the right thing to do. It fulfils New Zealand's obligation to do our bit and provide a small number of people, displaced by war and disaster each year, a place to call home," she said.

The time-frame for the introduction was a "simple question of logistics" and ensuring there was enough capacity and support available for those taken in, Ms Ardern told reporters.

The government in recent months has cited a housing crisis in New Zealand as a particular concern.

"In the meantime, we will work to increase the number and spread of refugee resettlement and support services. We need to make sure we're prepared for this change in policy," Ms Ardern said.

Activists have been critical of New Zealand's historic refugee record in recent years, with the number only raised to 1000 in 2016 (the first increase since 1987) and 2017's intake sitting at less than a quarter of Australia's on a per-capita basis.

Since World War II, New Zealand has resettled 33,000 refugees, compared to about 24,000 across the ditch just last year.

But ministers and agencies have pointed out New Zealand also takes in particular vulnerable refugees who may be excluded by other countries.

Dr Murdoch Stephens, who founded the campaign calling for the lift and recently authored a book on the issue, welcomed Wednesday's announcement but said more work needed to be done.

"Doubling the quota makes up for thirty years of no increase to the quota," he said.

"But it doesn't make us a world leader. At 1500 places we'll still be accepting half as many people per capita as Australia. Today is a day of celebration, for sure, but we are far from being world leaders."

New Zealand's Green Party, a support party of the government, has called for the quote to be raised to 6000 to put New Zealand closer in line with countries such as Australia and Canada.

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