The recipe for a coherent immigration policy with respect to claimants for refugee status calls for a perfect blend of compassion and pragmatism, seasoned with a large pinch of scepticism.
It's a complicated mix, and seldom achieved in an election year when politicians are much given to vote-grabbing soundbites. That's the likely explanation for John Key's blunt assertion that the boatload of 85 Sri Lankans intercepted by the Indonesian Navy a fortnight ago were "not welcome here".
It sounds good, but even in tight economic times, this country has an obligation to humanity to pull its weight in taking refugees. And our annual quota of 750 looks pretty miserly: Australia takes 400 times as many per head of population.
That said, winnowing the genuine cases from the shysters is no easy task. And it is made no easier when we are forced to bend over backwards for applicants who look like they have lied to officials to gain a status they do not deserve.
The difficulty is starkly illustrated by the case of a Rwandan named in court documents only as "Q" who has, for five years, been fighting the right of immigration authorities to withdraw his refugee status.
He is wanted in his homeland on charges alleging that he was involved in the genocidal strife that seized Rwanda in 1994.
All this time, Q has enjoyed the services of a top QC, paid for by the taxpayer. A judgment in the High Court at Auckland this month denied his claim to have the charges against him detailed more specifically and to cross-examine those whose evidence implicated him.
He may yet appeal to a higher court but the decision is a good one. He is not on trial for crimes of genocide and our legal system owes him no fair hearing on that matter, which is one for courts in his own country. The issue here is the fact that he is accused of giving contradictory statements to the UN and immigration authorities. On that ground he should long ago have been tossed out on his ear.
We should certainly open our door to genuine cases, but when people arrive here under false pretences, their applications should fall at the first hurdle.