Diversity and tolerance lead international cooperation on migration

  • Hon Iain Lees-Galloway

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight.

I firstly want to acknowledge all of you for being concerned about how we treat migrants and how we work together internationally on issues of migration.

Secondly, let me acknowledge a few key people:

  • Peter Nichols (President of UNANZ)
  • Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley FRSNZ (College of Humanities and Social Sciences of Massey University)
  • Joy Dunsheath, JP, former President and current member of the World Federation of United Nations Associations.


While I will speak on how we cooperate internationally to manage the movement of people across borders, I want to start by addressing the values we hold and how they can guide us.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the mention of the global compact on migration in the March mosque attacks.

Nor remind you that some responded by spreading misinformation about it suggesting we wouldn’t have sovereignty over our own borders.

That was never true.

Did that whip up fear and intolerance – I can’t say. But it could have fed fuel to a particular group of people who were keen on fanning the flames of fear and intolerance.

So let’s start with the actual facts:

The status of the Compact is explicit – paragraph 7 states that “this Global Compact presents a non-legally binding, cooperative framework”.

We maintain our sovereignty, and we are not forced to do anything, but we are encouraged to work with other nations. As we should.

After the March mosque attacks our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said to the BBC “if we want to make sure that globally we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world, we cannot think of this in terms of boundaries.”

She said she completely rejected the idea that our immigration systems had contributed to the attacks in any way. We are a welcoming country.

And more than that, we benefit from our communities being diverse and tolerant.


Overview of the Compact

Irregular migration is a global issue that requires global solutions.

Today there are over 272 million people in the world who were not born in the country they now reside in.

Most of our own families, our ancestors, were not born in New Zealand of course.

Is that a reason to fear us? No.

That is a reason to celebrate the diverse and interesting world in which we live.

New Zealand supports a State-led approach to migration that upholds the human rights and wellbeing of migrants and their families and that promotes inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.

Lead up to the Compact

2015 saw historic levels of displacement around the world, as the Syrian crisis added significantly to a range of others. The movement of huge numbers of people simply walking across borders in search of somewhere safe to live was challenging for humanity.

On 19 September 2016 at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, in response to the international community’s growing concerns about the challenges of migration, all 193 UN Member States adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (the New York Declaration).

In this declaration the 193 nations committed to negotiate the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration: the first international and non-legally binding cooperative framework on migration.

New Zealand advocated for a balanced, non-binding Compact that does not replace existing international agreements and standards, but rather sits alongside and upholds existing mechanisms such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our goal was to strengthen international cooperation to address irregular migration, while fostering and incentivising regular migration.

From February 2018 to July 2018, New Zealand officials participated in six rounds of intergovernmental negotiations.

Officials engaged with the development of the Compact to seek consistency with New Zealand’s domestic policy settings, ensure it was not legally binding, and could be applied in accordance with states’ capacity and priorities.

These were the mandates agreed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Immigration under the current and previous governments.

Officials also engaged in these processes to ensure that Compact was based on existing human rights law.

Our officials’ assessment was that the Compact largely met these objectives. In the small number of areas where New Zealand’s domestic policy settings differ from the suggested actions of the Compact, New Zealand is able to apply the Compact in a manner consistent with its own legislation and policies. 

Our Government announced on 19 December 2018 that New Zealand would support the Compact.

New Zealand — along with 151 other UN Member States — subsequently voted in favour of the Global Compact at the formal adoption ceremony in New York that day. (Five countries voted against the resolution, with 12 abstaining).

The Global Compact for Migration is the first United Nations agreement on a common approach to international migration. This means that, like other areas of international relations, there will be a set of common principles to guide approaches to migration.

Our Government supports the Global Compact as it meets New Zealand’s overall objectives of strengthening international cooperation to dismantle human trafficking and people smuggling syndicates, as well as to reduce the social, economic and political drivers that lead to irregular migration and prevent migrant exploitation. It also encourages good practice in regular migration.

As I said at the start, the Global Compact is non-legally binding and does not create any new legal obligations for countries supporting it. States are able to apply it in a manner consistent with their own priorities and capacity.


People trafficking and the Bali Process

The New Zealand Government is committed to combatting people trafficking domestically, regionally and internationally.

The United Nations defines people trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by deceptive, coercive or other improper means for the purpose of exploiting that person.

It is a global crime, committed at the expense of victims who are robbed of their dignity and freedom.

We have a comprehensive, whole-of-government response to people trafficking called the Plan of Action to Prevent People Trafficking.

The Plan’s goals are to prevent people trafficking, protect the human rights of trafficking victims, and prosecute people traffickers.

The Plan of Action is currently being refreshed to reflect changes in our legislation as well as the nature of people trafficking in New Zealand.

New Zealand has a strong stance on people trafficking and has comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation.

Sadly, New Zealand is not untouched by people trafficking crimes. In the last 10 years, there were four people trafficking prosecutions in New Zealand involving more than 40 victims, mostly for the purposes of labour exploitation.

New Zealand is engaged in multiple international fora to promote more effective and coordinated international efforts to curb people smuggling and trafficking.

This includes the Bali Process, which is a forum for discussion, information sharing and practical cooperation in regard to the issues of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime.

Within the Bali Process, New Zealand is the co-chair of the Working Group on the Disruption of Criminal Networks involved in People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons.

This working group focuses on concrete, action oriented activities for enhancing coordination to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in people smuggling and trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region.

We put funding into the prevention of people trafficking in the last budget, and will continue to ramp up the work we are doing to ensure we are doing all we can to stop the exploitation of vulnerable people by these criminals.

On that note, we are making efforts to support the safer option those people in danger have, which is to become a refugee.


New Zealand’s refugee policies

New Zealand has been resettling refugees on a regular basis since 1979 and the Refugee Quota Programme was introduced in 1987.

The Refugee Quota Programme is a reflection of the Government’s commitment to fulfilling its international humanitarian commitments to provide protection to refugees who are not able to return safely to their home country.

Consistent with the UNHCR, the Government prioritises referral of refugees for the Refugee Quota Programme based on refugees’ priority needs, which includes women and children at risk, and people with disabilities.

The majority of refugees resettles in New Zealand through the Refugee Quota Programme are resettled as family groups. 

On arrival in New Zealand quota refugees become permanent residents and are eligible to access government funded services the same as other residents and New Zealand citizens. 

They are eligible to apply for New Zealand citizenship after five years of residence in New Zealand.

As you will know, the Government has decided that the following changes will take effect from July 2020 when the annual refugee quota increases from 1,000 to 1,500:

  • The annual number of places within the refugee quota for large-scale refugee crisis situations will be increased from July 2020 from 100 to 200 to maintain flexibility to respond to a new global refugee crisis. 
  • The sub-category for women at risk will increase from a minimum of 75 places a year to a minimum of 150 a year.

The Government has removed the family link requirement for Middle East or Africa regions. That was never our policy and it had to go.



In conclusion, all of this work, from global cooperation on migration, to the prevention of people trafficking and the support for refugees, we bring our humanity.

We like to think we are in a modern and tolerant world.

We forget quite how much work it takes to keep it that way. But what better work to do than to protect our humanity and build a global culture where everyone is valued.

I’d like to finish on another comment from our Prime Minister:

“Every choice someone makes to learn about another culture, to experience the simple act of trying out a different food, seeing a different form of dance, hearing a different language, that is a choice, to open yourselves up to another culture, ethnicity and to diversity.”

The benefits of being tolerant and inclusive are enormous, both culturally and economically, so we need to continue to make the right choices, and continue to contribute to a modern New Zealand that is inclusive and tolerant and welcoming.

That’s a New Zealand we can all be proud of.