Prime Minister John Key's reaction to the boatload of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka lacks compassion, Green Party immigration spokesperson Keith Locke said today.
The Prime Minister stated yesterday that a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers intercepted in Indonesia were "not welcome" in New Zealand.
"The Prime Minister is violating the 1951 Refugee Convention by rejecting asylum seekers before any process has taken place to establish whether they are genuine refugees," said Mr Locke.
"Sri Lankan Tamils who have suffered persecution in their home country should be welcomed in New Zealand.
"It is also a reversal of government policy, because in 2010 New Zealand did accept some of the Tamil boat people taken aboard the Australian customs ship Oceanic Viking, after the UN High Commissioner of Refugees certified them as genuine refugees.
"John Key is tarnishing New Zealand's reputation as a compassionate country, established when we took in Afghan asylum seekers from the Tampa back in 2001.
"In recent years under the Key Government New Zealand has not filled its United Nations quota of refugees arriving in New Zealand each year," said Mr Locke.
"There is certainly the capacity in our refugee system to accept more asylum seekers who have a genuine fear of returning to their country.
"It is upsetting that our Prime Minister was so cold-hearted in rejecting people who were probably having a hard time in Sri Lanka, and have just completed a difficult ocean voyage.
"New Zealanders are a compassionate people, and John Key should be representing that."