The Government says 65 refugees wanting to live in New Zealand cannot claim asylum, as they are not in the country.
The 65 refugees say they were on their way to New Zealand when they were shipwrecked on an Indonesian reef.
In a letter seen by Radio New Zealand, they made a collective plea to the Government for asylum, saying it is unsafe for them to return to their home countries of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
They were now in a detention centre at Kupang, in the Indonesian province of West Timor.
An accompanying photograph showed them holding up a sign saying: "Please try to understand our painful life New Zealand government and save our life, please".
A spokesperson for the Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse said the Government had not received their letter.
She said they also could noy claim asylum without being in New Zealand, but they could ask the Australian government for help.
Renewed calls for increase in refugee numbers
Following the plight of the group, Amnesty International said the Government was out of step with general opinion on the number of refugees New Zealand lets in.
Amnesty International's executive director Grant Bayldon said the country's annual quota of 750 refugees had not been increased for 30 years and needed to be reviewed.
"This is really something that the Government needs to address, we've seen every political party indicate support for increasing the refugee quota not apart from National."
The Government said the quota was at the right level.