29 Oct 2013

Minister warns asylum seekers against container ploy

8:41 am on 29 October 2013

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says no asylum seekers have come to New Zealand in shipping containers, but the country is being touted by some people smugglers as an easier option than Australia.

Michael Woodhouse.

Michael Woodhouse. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

Fairfax Media in Australia has reported that people smugglers are advising asylum seekers to travel to New Zealand since Australia tightened its immigration rules.

It says secret audio recordings it has obtained reveal that people smugglers are now advising asylum-seekers to travel to New Zealand "because everything is better than Australia".

The Fairfax Media report says the people smugglers are telling their customers they can be sent in locked shipping containers from Indonesia. Prices being quoted are up to $17,000 per person.

The reports says smugglers are telling customers that New Zealand's immigration law is easy and open compared with Australia and they can get permanent residency after 45 days.

Michael Woodhouse says no asylum seekers have made it to New Zealand in a containers, and it would be incredibly risky for anyone who tried to do so.

"There have been some disastrous attempts across Europe to cross borders using land-based containers which have ended up in tragedies."

He says smugglers who are telling people New Zealand is an easier destination than Australia are lying.

"They've been talking about getting residence within 45 days, or being able to bring in family members, and that's simply not the case."

Mr Woodhouse says New Zealand's immigration laws were tightened in June this year and will act as a deterrent to any mass arrivals by boat.

Mass arrival 'unlikely'

The Refugee Council says people smugglers may be targeting New Zealand after - but a mass arrival in the country is still extremely unlikely.

Gary Poole, a spokesperson for the Refugee Council of New Zealand, says it was inevitable people smugglers would look to this country, and the refugees are coming from war-torn countries and are desperate.

"But it's a very dangerous and difficult journey - it's still very unlikely that any number of them are going to actually reach here. They would have the desire, but having desire and having the means is quite a different thing."

Mr Poole says New Zealand has a good reputation for looking after refugees and asylum seekers, which he says needs to be maintained.

Amnesty International New Zealand says smuggling people inside cargo containers is incredibly dangerous.

It says the way to stamp out people smuggling is to improve conditions in the refugees' country of origin.