Everyone loves a list. Even Schindler had one. So, here are the top five worst reasons against doubling the refugee quota.

It's Difficult

So is building hospitals and space-rockets and delivering justice.

The problem won't go away

The argument is that any amount we take will only be symbolic, a drop in the bucket.



To the refugees we take, it's not symbolic. It's not a drop in their bucket. It's their whole bucket.

It's their family's bucket and it means they no longer kick the bucket.

It doesn't mean their lives will be gorgeous and glamorous ever after, sequins and glitter, the end of war, cancer and suffering in the world. No. But to the people we pluck from the ocean it is pretty real.

Depending on your perspective, problems never go away. A lifeguard who saves a drowning swimmer doesn't make death go away.

Death will return. But that's no reason for a lifeguard not to rescue.

The person saved will be grateful, even though we all know their death hasn't been cancelled, only postponed.

At the end of Schindler's List, Oskar Schindler was miserable - inconsolable - that he didn't sell his car to save more lives. He wasn't saying, "Oh well, everyone dies anyway. What's a few extra decades?"

Of course saving them all is not possible. So let's not pretend that saving them all was ever the plan. The impossible, and our inability to achieve it, isn't an excuse not to be put out.


What is possible? Saving some. Saving as many, per capita, as Australia does.

So let's do that.

We're not ready

So what?!? Again, false perfectionism. Somehow I don't think refugees, who are happy to walk through entire countries, would mind an imperfect solution.

Refugees don't need private schools with the best parking spaces. Refugees don't need the full Max Key experience. They don't need weekend rides in the Maserati.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami in Thailand, do you think survivors were only going to settle for five-star accommodation?

When Christchurch had a second earthquake, did we ask them to schedule their earthquakes more conveniently?

If the option is having their lives saved (and having to live slightly lower decile than the best we have) I'd guess that refugees will sign on the dotted line.

The problem is happening now. Let's re-order our priorities. Let's move over so someone else can sit down.

Would you take a refugee into your own home?

This isn't how empathy works, you sociopath. This is how vile people who are total creeps, twist and distort empathy.

I wouldn't want to pull glass out of the flesh of a road-crash victim but I'd want the nation's hospitals to make it happen. Ditto with cleaning public toilets or searching for lost trampers or arresting criminals.

I can be in favour of it, without having to do it myself.

You don't have to be a GP to want children to have free GP visits. You don't have to be a teacher to want free education. I don't have to be an airport to want us to have airports. It's about what our country does with the public purse, and that is how we make our values concrete. This is why we have a system of government, FFS.

Wealthy Muslim Gulf states aren't taking refugees, so why should we?

Australia is taking 12,000. Pretend there's a transtasman refugee-quota league. (And there is: it's called history.)

And obviously, Muslim Gulf states are not as morally advanced as we are.

They have the death penalty, no human rights, no women's rights, no workers' rights, they have actual laws against affection, and plenty of things we overcame a good century ago.

The question shouldn't be why we don't follow their example but why we suck up to them.

And on the flipside, here's the worst reason for taking refugees: Albert Einstein.

The argument is that amazing people like Einstein, or professional footballers, were refugees, so let's sign them while they're desperate and cheap.

Taking refugees is not a talent quest. It's not MasterChef. They won't all be the cute boy on the beach. It's humanitarian aid. It's making things a little messier for us to make things a lot better for them.

We don't expect a lifeguard to analyse and compare the CVs of people who are drowning. We save refugees because it is the right and difficult thing to do.

It's entirely possible that refugees have more gumption than the average bear. But more likely, refugees are like those people who, on 9/11, jumped from the burning building.

They jumped because there was so much heat behind them, the only way was out. And if we are in a fortunate position to catch these people, or soften their landing, we should. If you don't agree, I can't persuade you.

Raybon Kan is a Wellington comedian.