New Zealand may receive Rohingya migrants under UNHCR, says PM

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (centre) taking a selfie with Vietnamese journalists at a gathering of Asean media in Auckland, as part of events marking the 40th anniversary of ties between the region and New Zealand, at the Auckland War Memoria
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (centre) taking a selfie with Vietnamese journalists at a gathering of Asean media in Auckland, as part of events marking the 40th anniversary of ties between the region and New Zealand, at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, on May 28, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARCEL LEE PEREIRA
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speaking at a gathering of Asean media in Auckland, as part of events marking the 40th anniversary of ties between the region and New Zealand, at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, on May 28, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARC
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speaking at a gathering of Asean media in Auckland, as part of events marking the 40th anniversary of ties between the region and New Zealand, at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, on May 28, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: MARCEL LEE PEREIRA

New Zealand may receive some of the migrants stranded on boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, said Prime Minister John Key today ahead of a regional meeting tomorrow on the human-trafficking crisis.

Mr Key was speaking at a gathering of Asean media in Auckland, as part of events marking the 40th anniversary of ties between the region and New Zealand.

New Zealand accepts a total of 750 refugees a year under a programme by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said Mr Key.

"It's quite possible that we can accommodate some of those refugees within that programme," added Mr Key, referring to Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and migrants from Bangladesh who have tried to land in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia since a Thai crackdown on people smugglers in early May led to trafficker crews abandoning them at sea.

New Zealand is, however, not looking to increase the number of refugees it takes in annually, added Mr Key, because the country offers a "comprehensive programme for people when they come - everything from housing, education... to finanacial support".

Most of the 4,500 Myanmarese currently in New Zealand are believed to have arrived as refugees. 

Tomorrow's meeting in Bangkok will involve 17 nations, including senior officials from Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and representatives from New Zealand, Australia, Cambodia, Laos, the United States, and Vietnam.

marcelp@sph.com.sg