23 Jan 2018

People smugglers are 'parasites' - PM

9:16 pm on 23 January 2018

The Prime Minister has denied New Zealand's refugee offer last year encouraged people smuggling, after an allegation surfaced in the Australian media.

Jacinda Ardern and Malcolm Turnbull

Ms Ardern pictured with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last year. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was advised any heightened "chatter" among people smugglers who may be targeting New Zealand was not unusual.

A story in The Australian quoted unnamed intelligence sources confirming three boats had been intercepted, destined for New Zealand. It claims the sources believed New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 asylum seekers was encouraging people smugglers to target this country.

There was a similar news report late last year.

Ms Ardern said people smuggling activity, and talk about coming to New Zealand, ebbs and flows and this was nothing out of the ordinary.

"I consider them [people smugglers] to be parasites. They prey on people's vulnerability. They manipulate situations and use any propaganda they can to take money from vulnerable people."

She said she had no comment on whether the Australian government or intelligence agencies have been leaking details to Australian media.

Last year, pressure started to mount on the Australian government when the Manus Island detention centre closed and about 400 detainees refused to leave the facility in Papua New Guinea.

The United Nations said the Australian action created a humanitarian crisis in PNG.

New Zealand has a longstanding offer to take 150 refugees from offshore detention centres, an offer the Australian government has never accepted. In November, Ms Ardern said New Zealand could take detainees from the centres on Manus and Nauru, but the Australian government said its priority was a resettlement deal with the United States.

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