Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Asylum 'cruises' to NZ touted

People-smugglers offer $17,000 trip in containers and easy residency, secret tape reveals.

Australia has stepped up its crackdown on boats attempting the journey. Photo / Getty Images
Australia has stepped up its crackdown on boats attempting the journey. Photo / Getty Images

People-smugglers in Indonesia are promoting a passage to New Zealand in shipping containers for up to $17,000 a person and are describing it to would-be customers as "the cruise ship option", an Australian news investigation has found.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse warns anyone contemplating the trip: "Don't come."

He says a law passed in June for mass arrivals means New Zealand is prepared if any do.

A Sydney Morning Herald investigation involving secret recordings of people-smugglers reveals that New Zealand is being promoted as a better option than Australia. The smugglers tell asylum seekers they can get permanent residency here after 45 days, and bring their family.

Mr Woodhouse said the report showed "not only are these smugglers heinous criminals, they are also liars".

Australia has stepped up its crackdown on boats attempting the journey and all asylum seekers are sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru.

The SMH reported sources in West Java, Indonesia, as saying people-smugglers were increasingly desperate for customers. About a dozen remained active.

Prospective asylum seekers in Cisarua, West Java, cited four smugglers offering passage to Darwin or New Zealand in a shipping container leaving from Bali, Sulawesi or West Papua for between US$8000 ($9660) and US$14,000 ($16,899) a person.

The paper said it had heard a recording of a smuggler named Muhammad Ali saying that for US$9000, he could get some Afghan asylum seekers from Jakarta to West Papua by air, then in a shipping container to New Zealand over seven days.

According to the paper, the recording has Ali saying: "New Zealand is very clear .. . Everything is better than Australia. The only problem is just unemployment ... New Zealand is a golden opportunity. You can take your mother, your brother, all of your family after proving they are in danger too."

The paper quoted one potential asylum seeker as saying many people had already paid US$3000 to one smuggler named Farhan and US$5000 to a third party and that a ship would go in one or three weeks.

Mr Woodhouse said the 45-day residency claim was "a bald-faced lie to attract vulnerable people to pay large amounts of money for an illegal passage".

The Government's amendment to the Immigration Act allows immediate detention of mass arrivals - 30 people or more - and the ability to seek further detention for 28 days at a time until the asylum seekers' bona fides are established.

- NZ Herald

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