Intercepted ship – people smuggling operation ‘had New Zealand contacts’

Last week Malaysian authorities intercepted a ship trying to smuggle 131 Sri Lankans, and have said the operation ‘had New Zealand contacts’, but an Australian refugees’ rights activist said the ship would never have reached New Zealand.

RNZ: Tanker smuggling migrants ‘never would have made it to NZ’

Malaysian authorities halted the modified tanker with 131 people on board on Tuesday and a group of Indonesains and Malaysians were arrested.

Malaysia’s national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the large-scale and cunning human smuggling syndicate had been operating for a year and had connections in New Zealand, as well as in Sri Lanka, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

However a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, said he doubted the ship could have gone far.

“It’s got a long way to come, even from Malaysia… and certainly the accommodation… it’s not equipped for any long distance thing.

So I think, on the face of it, there’s no possibility that it could be thinking of attempting to go to New Zealand.”

“It’s a fairly ambitious kind of operation and it’s unlikely, given the level of survellence between Indonesia and Australia, that a boat that size would make it.

He said the authorities were likely overplaying the level of complexity and contacts.

So this sounds like a long way from being a near miss.

Eventually a ship load of illegal immigrants may end up reaching New Zealand – ships travel great distances all the time, and a lot of New Zealand immigrants came here from the other side of the worlds in sailing ships.

Vigilance is needed, but it doesn’t seem to be a big concern here in New Zealand. And if some time a ship load of illegal immigrants end up making it here we just have to deal with it, as many other countries have to do.