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Wednesday, January 20

Locke welcomes Tamil asylum seeker decision


Green MP Keith Locke has warmly welcomed the government decision to accept 13 Tamil asylum seekers picked up by the Australian customs boat, Oceanic Viking.

Immigration Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman announced today that New Zealand would accept 13 of the 78 Tamils who have now been formally processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“This is a greatly appreciated humanitarian gesture,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Immigration Spokesperson.

“Hundreds of Tamils, fleeing repression in the aftermath of a civil war, have been desperate to find refuge in this part of the world.

“It is good that we are helping to share Australia’s burden, because the extra distance to New Zealand means that no boat people ever get here.

“It is in the best spirit of Trans-Tasman cooperation for us to help Australia deal with its boat people crisis.

“I am sure it will enhance our country’s reputation, as happened when we assisted Australia by taking 130 Afghan refugees from the Norwegian ship Tampa back in 2001.

“Taking in the 13 Tamils is a great start. However, there is probably room to take more under our annual 750 refugee quota.

“The Tamil refugee situation is one of the most dire in our region, and I’m certain that those coming here will be well supported by the local Tamil community, who understand what their Tamil compatriots have faced,” Mr Locke said.