New Zealand's rigorous immigration process

  • Lianne Dalziel

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said today that there was no reason to believe that New Zealand was at any greater risk of people smuggling than it had ever been.

“Over many years a small flow of asylum seekers has reached New Zealand. Generally, however, our considerable distance from the departure points for people smugglers has inhibited mass arrivals by boat of the kind Australia has experienced.

“With respect to the Tampa, New Zealand was widely applauded for helping to resolve the crisis at the time. Of the people on board the Tampa whom we accepted for processing, a very high proportion have been found to be genuine refugees and accordingly are being resettled in New Zealand.

“New Zealand is beefing up its legislation against people smuggling. It will be treated as a serious criminal offence under New Zealand law and the captain and crew of any migrant smuggling vessels would face tough new penalties if caught. These penalties will act as a further deterrent to any smugglers who thought of New Zealand as a potential destination for their human cargo.

“A further deterrent to those paying people smugglers should be the fact that only a small proportion of people arriving in New Zealand who seek asylum actually gain refugee status. In the year 2000-2001, of the 1703 applicants, only 311 (18.3 percent) were granted refugee status.

“New Zealand will also be seeking to play an active role in the February Regional Conference on Trans-national Crime (including migration) co-sponsored by Indonesia and Australia in February.

“The National Party has been all over the paddock on the Tampa issue. First they opposed New Zealand taking any of the asylum seekers because they thought that would be a popular stance. Then they supported taking some for processing, but not as many as were taken. Now Mr English seems to suggest that we should not have worked with Australia to resolve the crisis. When they finally work out some real policy, perhaps they could let us know,” Lianne Dalziel said.