People smugglers looking to cash in on NZ's stance - report

People smugglers are taking advantage of the New Zealand Government's stance on refugees, Australian media reports.

It's been revealed the Manus Island stand-off with Australia has caught the eye of crime syndicates looking to cash in, according to the Courier Mail.

Courier Mail says Operation Sovereign Borders, led by the Australian Defence Force, turned back four boats that were collectively carrying 164 asylum seekers.

It is believed they were trying to bypass Australia's tough border controls and get to New Zealand.

The report said intelligence communities fear smugglers may be using Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's stance on the situation to encourage people to risk their lives at sea - although the report did not say when the boats were turned back.

It is also not known what country the boats came from, but they were towed back to Indonesian waters.

The reports come as the situation on Manus Island gets more desperate, with the situation could turn fatal.

Barrister Greg Barns represents asylum seekers, and told Newshub hundreds are refusing to leave the detention centre as they are afraid of how they will be treated on the outside.

He says the outlook is grim, unless someone intervenes.

"No one wants to see harm, but this just requires common sense and compassionate and lawful solution and it's crying out to be done."

It's been two weeks since the centre was cut off from food, water and electricity.

Newshub.