Jacinda Ardern's Manus stance caused people-smuggling spike - Aussie intelligence

Australian intelligence services are warning Jacinda Ardern's offer to take in 150 asylum seekers from Manus Island has caused even more people-smugglers to attempt to reach New Zealand.

In November 2017, it was revealed the New Zealand Government's stance on refugees had caught the eye of crime syndicates looking to cash in.

The Courier Mail reported 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.

On Tuesday these fears were backed up by The Australian, which reported Australian intelligence sources as saying another boat had been intercepted just before Christmas. The people-smugglers on board had said they were attempting to reach New Zealand.

Another two boats heading here were stopped by Sri Lankan police, The Australian says.

Intelligence fears

Australian intelligence officials say monitored communications over the past few months put New Zealand as one of the main destinations for asylum seekers, The Australian reports.

Intelligence sources have blamed this on the offer to resettle refugees from Australia's offshore detention centres.

"I see the human face of this and I see the need and the role New Zealand needs to play," Ms Ardern said in November.

"I think it's clear that we don't see what's happening there as acceptable; that's why the offer's there."

However Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has rejected suggestions that refugees currently held offshore on Manus Island could be successfully resettled in New Zealand.

Mr Dutton called the plan a "bad option" as people smugglers could take the opportunity to market New Zealand as an alternative pathway to Australia.

"If there is a back door way that opens up I can promise you people smugglers are biting at the bit to take money off innocent people and to get back onto boats," he told Sky News Australia.

Ms Ardern's criticism has angered Australian leaders over what they see as New Zealand undermining their immigration policy.

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

Ms Ardern last year denied her Government was a soft touch for asylum seekers, saying there have been attempts to reach New Zealand before Labour came into power.

"There have been reports of people who have claimed to be heading to New Zealand for a number of years," she said in December.

"So making a connection directly between recent events and that occurrence wouldn't necessarily be a fair reflection of what's been happening for some time now."


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