Arrests over plan to smuggle refugees to NZ

5:12 pm on 2 July 2016

Security forces in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu have arrested two men for trying to ferry more than 100 refugees to New Zealand.

Tamil refugees take shelter at a refugee camp at Gummidipoondi near Chennai (Tamil Nadu) on Thursday, May 21, 2009.

Refugees take shelter at a camp at Gummidipoondi near Tamil Nadu in May 2009. Photo: AFP

The men were promising jobs in New Zealand to Sri Lankan Tamils living in the state's refugee camps, according to Indian media reports.

The pair were reported to have planned to sail the refugees from the coastal city of Muttom to New Zealand - a journey of about 11,000km.

The report said the police and other security forces had seized a 25m boat loaded with 9000 litres of diesel and 4000 litres of water.

Michael Woodhouse during caucus run 10.11.15

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was not surprised when he was informed of the failed attempt.

New Zealand was being increasingly marketed as an attractive destination by people-smugglers, he said.

"I think we're being marketed as a more attractive place because of the efforts Australia has gone to to make it very clear to those contemplating coming that they will not be resettled."

No boat ferrying large numbers of refugees had ever landed in New Zealand but, should one do so, they would be detained.

"A judge can grant a warrant of detention for a mass arrival of 30 or more asylum seekers," he said.

"The law also provides for anyone who is granted asylum won't be able to have family members join them and there are other measures that make mass arrival the least attractive proposition available as it's hideously risky and highly likely to result in death."

A spokesperson for Immigration New Zealand said it was constantly monitoring the threats to this country.

There had been several other attempts to smuggle people to New Zealand in recent years, it said.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs