By John Tamihere
For the first time since 2001 our country had to face the prospect of refugees taking it upon themselves to set a course in wanting to come to New Zealand.
In 2001, a freighter called the Tampa, which had rescued a large number of refugees, entered Australian waters against the wishes of that government.
The net result of this incident meant Australia radically changed its immigration laws and set up holding camps on Christmas Island and Nauru. This week, a large number of Sri Lankans boarded a ship that left Indonesia in an attempt to land in Australia. They professed to prefer New Zealand as their ultimate destination.
The Prime Minister, John Key, issued a statement saying they would not be welcome. The PM is right on a number of levels.
We cannot reward people who knowingly embark on a course that breaches our law. We cannot support people who in effect jump the queue and leave stranded hundreds of other refugees legitimately standing in a queue.
We take 750 refugees a year as new citizens.
They are a remarkably costly group for our health, welfare and education systems. But let's get real, they have to get to Australia, then they have to get across the wild Tasman Sea before they can get to Godzone.
But it does not matter what banners people wave on refugee ships, what matters is that there is a due process and everyone should adhere to that process.
Just as we must determine the type of refugee, we should also determine the type of immigrant we welcome as new citizens.
We must highly value what we have and who we introduce to share this very special part of the world. Refugees by and large have absolutely nothing going for them. Immigrants are carefully screened and can become very productive very quickly.
Which brings me to my final point. and that is the vast majority of people who worship Islam are moderate in their religious conduct.
They are also largely law-abiding and productive citizens. A minority of Muslims in this country practise a fundamentalist form of their religion.
Only a very small minority enforce the wearing of the burqa. I find the burqa offensive and I am uncomfortable when I cannot see the face of a fellow citizen.
I believe that when people come to this country, they are advised prior to coming, that all religions and cultures are welcome, just leave your burqas behind.
Sunday News, 17th July 2011