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NZ First not holding up changes to Africa and Middle East refugee policy, says Immigration Minister

New Zealand First is not holding up the Government's decision whether to scrap the "family link" policy that requires refugees from Africa and the Middle East to have an existing family connection to New Zealand, says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. 

Instead, he said they were "following our usual processes, we'll make a decision soon, and we'll tell you about it".

New Zealand's refugee policy explicitly prevents people from Africa and the Middle East, unless they already had family living in the country. The issue was highlighted on TVNZ1's Sunday, that found New Zealand's main refugee quota has been heavily affected by the policy.

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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

On TVNZ1's Q+A last night, Mr Lees-Galloway said the decision is before Government "on our next three year programme, the family link decision is part of that". 

Mr Lee-Galloway had not received "advise to that extent" of security concerns of refugees from Africa or the Middle East. "This is our opportunity to review that setting, it is the right time to do it."

On if there was cross-party support in changing the rule, Mr Lees-Galloway said he was in discussion with NZ First and the Green Party.

"You'll know what support there is for the decision when we make a decision as a Cabinet."

On Sky News Australia, NZ First leader Winston Peters said he supported the rules as they currently stand, "and they are not racist", he added. 

In response to Mr Peters' comments, Mr Lees-Galloway said he was follow "proper processes" and denied that Mr Peters was delaying any decisions. 

"It isn't quite that straightforward because we're making this decision as part of our regional allocation policy, where we decide what parts of the world we're taking people from and in what proportions, it's an important decision that needs to be thought through - the question about the family link is being made alongside that decision. 

"We're following our usual processes, we'll make a decision soon, and we'll tell you about it."

On TVNZ1's Breakfast last month, Mr Lees-Galloway said the policy was "the very definition of discrimination", but would not explicitly say whether the Government would change the policy.

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But Iain Lees-Galloway wouldn’t tell Breakfast whether the policy regarding people from Africa and the Middle East will now change. Source: Breakfast

When asked yesterday why the policy was not changed earlier, Mr Lees-Galloway said that "the three year programme is in there for a good reason... Immigration New Zealand need time to plan and operationalise the refugee intake". 

Mr Lees-Galloway would not say if he thought the law was racist, but said he had expressed his view to Cabinet, "that's where I should be having that conversation". 

Q+A is on TVNZ1 on Mondays at 9.30pm, and the episode is then available on TVNZ OnDemand and as a podcast in all the usual places. 

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Currently it explicitly prevents people from those areas coming here, unless they already have family living in the country. Source: Q+A