The Government has scrapped the controversial family-link policy for African and Middle Eastern refugees.

The rules have been described as "racist and discriminatory" by new Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.

The Government has also increased the overall number of African refugees allowed into the country, but only by 1 per cent a year.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway this morning said the Government would remove the requirement that would-be African and Middle Eastern refugees need to have family already living in New Zealand to be resettled.


Foon has been highly critical of this policy, telling Q&A it was racist and discriminatory.

"Policies that single out African and Middle Eastern refugees and treat them unfairly in comparison to other refugees are unacceptable."

Community and refugee advocate Guled Mire told MPs at a select committee in August the policy "has to go".

"It's not what we aspire to be, it's not what we should want to be. We should be a kind and inclusive Aotearoa and [the policy] just needs to go."

The Government has also increased the allocation of African and Middle Eastern refugees allowed into the country each year from 14 per cent to 15 per cent.

According to a Cabinet paper from February this year, obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act (OIA), New Zealand's quota of African refugees is 105 people a year.

This means the 1 per cent increase amounts to an extra eight people between July this year and July 2020.

However, as the Government is increasing the refugee quota by 500 to 1500 in July next year, that number will be 173.


The Government allocates 105 places for Middle Eastern refugees each year, plus an additional 50 for crisis response.

The 1 per cent increase means the number of Middle Eastern refugees allowed into New Zealand will rise from 155 to 165 people a year.

But the 2 per cent increase in African and Middle Eastern refugees comes at the expense of people from the South American region.

A spokesperson for Lees-Galloway confirmed that from next year, the quota of refugees from the Americas – mostly countries such as Colombia – would drop from 22 per cent (165 people) to 20 (145 people).

The Government has also announced it would increase the number of places within the refugee quota for large-scale refugee crisis situations.

From July next year, that number will double from 100 to 200.

At the moment, 50 of those places are allocated to refugees from the Asia-Pacific and 50 to those from the Middle East.

Lees-Galloway said this would help to maintain flexibility so New Zealand can respond to a "new global refugee crisis".

It is not yet clear, however, where the extra 100 people will come from.

Also part of the refugee policy reset is an increase in the sub-category for women at risk from a minimum of 75 places a year to at least 150 a year.