'Desperate people will pay significant money': Human smuggling groups target New Zealand

Organised criminal groups are charging tens of thousands of dollars to manufacture fraudulent passports in an effort to smuggle people into New Zealand. 

Figures have also revealed that Malaysia has made a number of attempts at misleading New Zealand's immigration officials. 

An Immigration New Zealand official identified and foiled a people smuggling operation in Dubai in May this year. Official information shows two Afghan men attempted to board a flight from Dubai to Auckland using counterfeit Indonesian passports. 

The passports imitated the birth dates and details of two men who held current New Zealand visitor visas.

"There is an industry out there around people trafficking. Desperate people will pay significant money," says Peter Devoy, assistant general manager of Compliance and Border Operations at Immigration New Zealand. 

"Potentially, the arrangements will cost well beyond tens of thousands of dollars in New Zealand currency."

The smuggling attempt out of Dubai was likely the work of criminal groups in either Indonesia or Malaysia. 

A record 3.8 million people came to New Zealand in the year to March 2018 - an increase of more than 1.2 million visitors when compared to the numbers five years ago. 

"So with the increasing numbers, we'd expect to see an increase in people trying to get here on fraudulent documents," says Devoy.

From 2016 until July this year, Immigration New Zealand identified 237 fraudulent passports. Fifty people holding suspect documents managed to land in Auckland before being caught. 

The rest were stopped before boarding overseas.


Eighteen came from Greece and 27 came from Indonesia, but the majority of them - 37 in total - were Malaysian. Malaysian passport holders are able to gain visa-free access to New Zealand. 

"It has all to do with the fact that Malaysia is a visa waiver country in a region that doesn't have a lot of waiver countries. That's the important aspect is Malaysia stands alone," says strategic analyst Paul Buchanan.

Buchanan says there's another reason Malaysia stands out. 

"In countries with limited opportunity and with cultures of corruption, human invention turns to mischief and Malaysia is one such country," he says.

Even New Zealand's own sought-after passport isn't immune.

Since January 2018, Internal Affairs found 17 New Zealand passports that were obtained or applied for on fraudulent grounds, four that were forged and another four that were computer manipulated versions. 

"The movement of people around the world, and the exploitation of people is a growing crime type," says Devoy.

As such, Immigration is boosting the number of staff at overseas airports to reduce immigration risks. 

From October, people from all visa waiver countries, like Malaysia, will need to supply additional information like previous convictions - before they travel here.