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Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says Syrian refugees will be screened and those in polygamous marriages or who were directly involved in the conflict in Syria will not be taken by New Zealand.

The Government yesterday announced it will take a further 750 Syrian refugees over the next three years, including 600 in an emergency intake above New Zealand's usual quota of refugees.


Mr Woodhouse said New Zealand would take those recognised as refugees on the grounds of persecution on the basis of religion or ethnicity by the UNHCR.


"Once those checks have been done there are some other filtering processes, including people with polygamous marriages or who have been involved directly in the conflict. They will be excluded as well."

Polygamy is illegal in New Zealand.

While people can not enter polygamous marriages in New Zealand there is recognition of polygamy in the Family Proceedings Act if the marriages took place in a country where it is legal.

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Polygamy is permitted in many Muslim societies and in Syria it is restricted and requires the court's consent.

He said Immigration New Zealand would work with the UN to select suitable refugees for New Zealand.

Immigration officials will travel to Lebanon in October and December to carry out those checks and the first refugees are expected in January.

"Obviously there is an overwhelming need and a limit to what New Zealand can do. What we want is to make sure we get people who are in serious need and who can settle here."

As well as the UNHCR and Immigration NZ checks, the Security Intelligence Service screens potential refugees to ensure they are not a security concern.

Mr Woodhouse said Immigration New Zealand will work with the Red Cross to decide which centres the refugees will be re-homed in.

Prime Minister John Key said most of the Syrian refugees would be settled in Wellington because there was already a Syrian community there and the housing demand in Auckland meant it was difficult to find housing for them.

Mr Woodhouse said it was possible family members of those Syrians already in New Zealand could be taken under the numbers.

Mr Woodhouse said efforts will be made to find jobs for them after research in 2012 found less than 40 per cent of refugees had full time work five years after arriving in New Zealand.

The Government put in place a new strategy two years ago to try to improve that but the numbers are still less than 45 per cent.

Mr Woodhouse said he did not expect the Syrian intake to disadvantage other refugees and the Government was putting in an extra $48.8 million to cover the extra services needed.

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He said the reason for the extra numbers was so refugees from other countries did not miss out.

"Generally our quota programme does focus on regions closer to home, in Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, the Americas. That's where the majority of refugees recently are from. That's a consequence of our Asia-Pacific focus."

There are calls for the quota to be permanently lifted to at least 1000, although Mr Key was cautious about that.

Mr Woodhouse echoed Mr Key's caution.

The Mangere Resettlement Centre was being upgraded to allow it to cater for up to 196 refugees at any one time - and up to 300 in an emergency case such as a mass arrival of asylum seekers.

All refugees spend six weeks at the centre after arrival where they are given language, health and education support.

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