New Zealand announced new measures this week that would allow the country to resettle 750 Syrian refugees over the next three years, with 600 of them accepted through a special emergency intake, the New Zealand Herald reports, above the country's annual quota of 750 refugees.
While the plan may seem to fit in with a global outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees over the past few weeks, one New Zealand politician has stoked controversy. As Winston Peters, head of the center-right political party New Zealand First, puts it, his party is fine with women and children coming to New Zealand. But Syrian men, Peters said, should go back and "fight."
"I think we can do better, but we can't do that while we've got mass immigration," Peters said while responding to the plan on Monday. "And if we're going to do it, let's bring the women and children and tell some of the men to go back and fight for their own country's freedom, like we are."
Peters, who is part Maori, founded the New Zealand First party in 1993. The small party, currently in opposition, has long supported anti-immigration policies. Peters was appointed the nation's foreign minister in 2005, a move that some critics called "awkward" because of his comments on immigration (he left that position in 2008).
Peters's latest comments have quickly drawn the ire of some members of New Zealand's Muslim community. Zain Ali, head of the Islamic Studies Research Unit at the University of Auckland, contacted the New Zealand Herald to say that Peters was proposing the men go back to a "meat grinder" and that, with hundreds of rebel groups in Syria, it wasn't clear whom they'd be expected to fight with.
New Zealand has 121 soldiers deployed to Iraq to help train that country's army to fight the Islamic State. "Like every response, there's a proportionate response, and I think we're in the right place," Prime Minister John Key said this week.
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