At times like this it can be useful to remember that we are all refugees, or descendants of refugees.
Historians say we can't know - although Maori have their own stories - why the first settlers arrived on these islands. But presumably those great Pacific voyagers came here in search of a better life, "leaving behind everything they had known and loved for a chance to live in peace and safety".
That's why my mother's ancestors came here, fearfully boarding leaky ships for months-long voyages to a destination they can have known little about. Few among us will not have a similar back story that explains how we came to be living at this uttermost end of the earth.
The thought occurred to me when Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy used the phrase I've quoted above at a function on Saturday to mark World Refugee Day. The 14th such celebration, it took place in a community centre near Western Springs over a period of a few hours, during which the number of people in the world fleeing war, famine and terror increased by 5000 or 6000.
In 2001, there were 12 million refugees in various parts of the world; now the figure may be as high as 73 million, or one person in 100.
Dame Susan called for an increase in the number - presently a dismal 750 - of refugees this country accepts each year, describing it as "humanity in action". In per-capita terms, that number ranks this historically welcoming nation 87th in the world for refugee resettlement, and it hasn't changed since 1987.
But she made the point that it was "real people", not official quotas, that could make refugees feel welcome.
If the turnout on Saturday was any indication, there was little reason for her to feel optimistic. In two hours or so, I reckon I saw barely a dozen people who were not either in some official capacity or refugees, from countries whose names - Burma, Rwanda, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan - evoke such chilling images of suffering and atrocity.
The public discussion on various websites has been equally dispiriting, even allowing for the fact that such comment is usually disproportionately spittle-flecked. Hideous personal attack was interspersed with the view that we should "look after our own".
It's an interesting phrase, that, smacking as it does of pulling the ladder up after you (see "we are all refugees", above), and I'm betting not many of those who espouse looking after our own are clamouring for tax increases so we can improve our poor performance in that regard.
But the "us and them" world-view it implies is equally problematic. Many refugees come from conflicts in which we, through our alliances, are inescapably implicated. That's what drove us to accept so many thousands after World War II. We saw it as a human duty then, and our society was the better for it.
Those who do make it here tell stories that suggest a refreshingly collective view. Nan Myat Htwe, a Burmese woman, came three years ago after a spell in a refugee camp to which she had fled because six years of working on the Thai-Burma border, rescuing children from sex traffickers, had put her and her family in danger of violent retribution.
An Afghan woman called Zarghouneh, who "since my little age" has never known what it is to live in peace, fled her home when all five of her next-door neighbours died in a bombing. She and her family walked, night and day, for 10 days to Pakistan.
Both these women are active in the Wise Collective, in which refugee women work together to develop the skills and confidence in their new home, and foster enterprises that might generate income.
As matters stand, the Government is having a bob each way on the refugee quota. Prime Minister John Key says he doesn't favour raising it, though he plays fast and loose with numbers, saying that family reunification provisions swell the 750 to "thousands". (In 2013, it added 303.) Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says he is "preparing recommendations" for Cabinet about the quota.
The dual positions may allow the Government to assess the electoral implications of a policy change, but it's more than a numbers game. Next month, this country assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council. Its short tenure of that office would provide a great platform to announce it was acting like an exemplary global citizen, rather than skulking behind nimby platitudes.
For more info visit: settlement.org.nz/wise-collective/