'We are not being meek', Prime Minister Bill English says on Trump travel ban

By Audrey Young, Isaac Davison

Prime Minister Bill English says New Zealand "disagrees" with the new directives from US President Trump that discriminates among refugees and migrants according to which country they come from.

Such a policy would not be implemented in New Zealand.

But that is as far as he is willing to go and he said that that amounted to criticism of the policy.

"We are not being meek at all," he told reporters at the Karaka yearling sale this afternoon.

"President Trump has got to deal with his own issues and his own election promises. We don't agree with the policy.

"We have yet to see just what turns out to be the long-term policy for the US because this is a temporary measure."

Trump ordered a three-month ban on entry into the US by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as a permanent ban on Syrian refugees and a temporary ban other refugees.

English said the policy appeared to have created some chaos in the short term. He would see what the permanent policy turned out to be.

"In the same way as other leaders have indicated, we welcome our refugees and migrants wherever they come from. We are not going to discriminate amongst them in this sort of way - depending on what country they come from."

English twice avoided saying whether he would raise the policy with Trump in any phone conversation he had with him.

"We are yet to see if we will be speaking to him in the next few days but I would expect to raise any issue that has an impact on New Zealand in our interests."

English said New Zealand had a "long, deep relationship" with the United States and he had no doubt about the ability to maintain a good relationship.

Labour leader Andrew Little said this afternoon the ban was based on prejudice and English should publicly condemn it.

English is expecting a call from the US President this week and Little said he should raise the issue with him. He would do the same if in power, he said.

"We have to step up to our very, very, very good friend and say 'What you are doing is not right'.

"It's taken two days into this issue for Bill English to even step up and say something. He's been missing in action up until now.

"And what he's provided has been, quite frankly, pretty weak."

The Labour leader also reiterated that the Government should raise the annual refugee quota to 1500 a year, with further increases in future years.

Asked if the Government would consider raising the refugee quota, English said the quota had just increased from 750 to 1000 and New Zealand spent about $100,000 per refugee each year to assist with housing, language and skills to become employable.

He did not rule out a further increase if the pilot scheme of community sponsorship of refugees worked but it would not be a big number.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says the US ban on migrants from seven Muslim countries was "bad policy" and inflammatory.

"This is bad policy and I think Americans will see that for what it is over time. It is a three month temporary hiatus, but at a time when they are trying to reduce risk, it seems to me it could be inflammatory and increase risk."

He said New Zealand had a targeted, intelligence-based immigration checking process, including for refugees. "I'm sure the United States can come up with one as well - if they don't already have it."

Earlier today, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the ban was "causing considerable concern" but stopped short of directly criticising the US Government.

"It is clear that the immigration announcements out of the US are causing widespread confusion and considerable concern," he said in a statement.

"While we respect the right of the US administration to determine US immigration policy these are not initiatives that New Zealand would contemplate.

"It is also clear that the implementation is subject to significant teething problems."

McCully went on to say that no New Zealanders had sought help from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) as a result of the new immigration policy.

"At this stage MFAT has not received any requests for consular assistance as a result of the 90 day US immigration ban.

"We would encourage all people who require advice regarding travel to the US to contact the US Consulate General in Auckland in the first instance."

Labour and the Greens have urged the Government to condemn Trump's travel ban.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 30 May 2017 16:02:34 Processing Time: 603ms