Is it racist? 'Very serious questions' raised about fairness of NZ's refugee policy

New Zealand’s refugee policy is discriminating against vulnerable people from Africa and the Middle East, a TVNZ Sunday investigation has found.

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New Zealand’s refugee policy discriminates against those from Africa and the Middle East. Experts say it could breach our human rights obligations. Source: Sunday

In 2009, the then-National Government introduced the "family link" policy, requiring refugees from Africa and the Middle East to have an existing family connection to New Zealand.

While some Middle Eastern refugees have been brought in under emergency intakes, including from Syria, the main refugee quota has been heavily affected by this policy.

New Zealand has been unable to meet its refugee targets for Africa and the Middle East over the past decade.

Refugee leaders and community organisations told Sunday that the policy is racist and unfair.

The "family link" policy has been criticised by Amnesty International and World Vision. Both organisations say they have lobbied the Government, asking for a change in the policy. Those efforts have been unsuccessful.

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The policy, put in place by National in 2009, discriminates against people from Africa and the Middle East. Source: Breakfast

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt told Sunday that he would be "very disappointed if different rules were being applied to refugees from different geographic regions without very good reasons for such an approach".

The "family link" rule doesn't apply to refugees from the Asia-Pacific or the Americas.

Mr Hunt says the policy raises "very serious questions about compliance with our international human rights obligations".

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway refused to be interviewed, saying that the issue is before Cabinet and he hopes to make an announcement later in the year.

In a statement, the UNHCR – the UN's refugee agency – told TVNZ that refugee laws should be applied "without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin".

The agency said all states should prioritise refugees "on the basis of need".

Watch the full story above.