People smugglers ‘targeting’ New Zealand: report

People smugglers are moving to cash-in on a left-leaning New Zealand, according to Australia’s Courier Mail.

Operation Sovereign Borders has turned back four boats trying to get across the ditch.

The paper reports crime syndicates have tried to bypass Australia’s tough immigration measures and attempted to send four boats, carrying 164 asylum seekers, to New Zealand.

The Australian Government says their border protection policies are stopping thousands of people arriving in New Zealand. Photo / File

The Australian Government says their border protection policies are stopping thousands of people arriving in New Zealand. Photo / File

It comes as there are fears within intelligence communities that the direction of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been highly-critical of Australia’s policy, may be used by people smugglers to encourage desperate people to risk their lives at sea, it says.

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The Courier-Mail says it understands that “chatter” has resumed among people smugglers who have pointed to the stand-off between Australia and NZ.

It is not known when the boats were intercepted or what country they started from but it is believed they told OSB they were headed to NZ, the Courier-Mail reported. They were turned or towed back to near Indonesian waters.

In a recent interview with the Courier-Mail, the man in charge of OSB, Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Osborn said people smugglers leapt on changes of governments or ministers to get back into business.

“And it will be spun, whether it is (true) or not, because you’ll have people smugglers who will go, ‘Right, here’s something that has a grain of truth, there’s been a change in minister for example, we can spin this that he’s a really nice guy, he’s left-leaning, like the Greens or whatever, and he’ll invite us’,” he said earlier this year.

While it has never before been revealed that four boats were turned back, last week Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said New Zealand had been a destination for people smugglers.

“New Zealand is seen, as we know from our own intelligence, as effectively part of Australia by the people smugglers,” Turnbull told ABC Radio.

Asylum seekers protesting the closure of their detention centre on Manus Island on October 31 2017.

Asylum seekers protesting the closure of their detention centre on Manus Island on October 31 2017.

“Do you know, we have intercepted and turned back boats which were heading to New Zealand?

“I mean the people smugglers, the only reason New Zealand does not have thousands of people arriving in an unauthorised way on their shores is because of our border protection policies.

“New Zealand is a prime beneficiary from our strong border protection policies.”

Ardern is expected to again offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Manus Island when she meets with Turnbull on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.

Australia’s Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm said it would be a bad outcome.

“That’s a fatal mistake, literally a fatal mistake. People die when that happens,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.

“If these people are taken in by New Zealand it will effectively be a back door into Australia.”

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