Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Two arrested over plans to smuggle refugees to New Zealand

Two men have been arrested and detained after an operation in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Photo / Wikimedia Commons
Two men have been arrested and detained after an operation in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Photo / Wikimedia Commons

Two men have been arrested in India for allegedly planning to ferry more than 100 refugees to New Zealand.

Indian media have reported the arrests of the men, who were detained after an operation in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The reports said the arrested men had promised jobs to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who were living in refugee camps.

The refugees would be smuggled into New Zealand by boat, after a planned 11,000km journey.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he wasn't surprised that refugees were trying to enter the country illegally.

"We've been aware that people-smugglers continue to market New Zealand as a destination, particularly in the wake of efforts Australia has gone to to prevent boats arriving there, and I think we can expect more of it.

"What's interesting about this one is that the launch point was going to be South-East India. That's nearly 11,000km away.

"What that shows you is how ridiculously risky this stuff is. I'm glad they've been arrested, I'm glad it's been stopped, because it's probably prevented them all drowning in the Indian Ocean."

India media claimed authorities had seized a 25m boat as part of the operation.

The Hindu reported that three vans - which were intended to transport the refugees to their awaiting boat - were also seized.

The paper reported 9000 litres of diesel and 4000 litres of water had been recovered from the boat.

It is understood the men had sought $4150 from each of the refugees intending to board the board.

The Hindu revealed that earlier this year 14 Sri Lankan nationals who intended to travel to New Zealand were arrested. Five didn't have valid travel documents.

- NZ Herald

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