19 Nov 2013

People smuggling investigation reveals NZ a target

5:16 am on 19 November 2013

Australia's public broadcaster says people smugglers are increasingly targeting New Zealand as a destination for asylum seekers.

An ABC investigation has found that Iraqi national Abu Tarek is offering asylum seekers forged Bahraini passports with Australian visas for up to $NZ18,000 to fly directly to New Zealand.

The passports and visas would allow asylum seekers to enter Australia on commercial airline flights rather than by fishing boats.

In a series of meetings in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur last week, Mr Tarek was secretly filmed offering the travel documents to potential customers. He claimed to be selling two types of Australian visa: holiday visas and transit visas for flights going on to New Zealand.

The ABC's Sarah Ferguson told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Monday that Abu Tarek is selling passports from countries near the Persian Gulf with visas allowing them to stay in New Zealand and Australia.

She said says people smugglers are turning their attention to New Zealand as a destination.

"New Zealand is coming up more and more in the discourse of people smugglers. And I know that a number of key smugglers from one of the biggest syndicates in Indonesia have actually moved their family to New Zealand.

"There are people smugglers, who would originally have looked at Australia as a destination, are actually now relocating to New Zealand."

Ms Ferguson said the ABC has been following Abu Tarek for a couple of months and his business has been very busy.

Meanwhile, the ABC reports that another smuggler, Abu Saleh, is still luring asylum seekers from behind bars. He is in a Jakarta prison for stabbing a man to death in a night club in December 2012. It said he continues to operate his people smuggling business from his cell with the help of prison officials.

On Monday, Immigration New Zealand said it was unaware of any asylum seekers obtaining New Zealand visas in an improper manner.

The agency said authorities have taken strong action to deter people smuggling ventures. It said anyone who did try to use a black market visa would be stopped from boarding at check-in, as the technology would not recognise it as valid.