With illegal cross border immigration soaring into the millions per year across the globe, New Zealand enjoys a unique natural advantage over other first world nations battling to secure their borders.
Thousands of kilometres of rough and cold seas separate the island nation from the nearest people smuggling centres. A barrier that would put even US President Donald Trump’s dream border wall to shame.
But New Zealand’s government isn’t being complacent. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the risk of being targeted has increased. And the government has sharply boosted funding for efforts discouraging attempts at illegal boat migration to the country.
New funding of about NZ$24 million (AU$23 million) over four years was allocated for ‘maritime mass arrival prevention’ in the national budget released by the Labour-led government on Thursday.
Iain Lees-Galloway said the money would go towards communications programs and staff training aimed at preventing New Zealand-bound boats from departing their country of origin, rather than interception.
Funding next year will rise to NZ$5.8 million, compared to just NZ$1.3 million spent last year, according to the minister’s office.
No people-smuggling boat has ever made it to New Zealand, partly owing to the country’s remoteness.
‘We do know New Zealand has been targeted by people smugglers and that the risk of that targeting has increased in recent years,’ Lees-Galloway told reporters.
‘It’s a treacherous and dangerous journey .. We want to be vigilant and be sure people are not tempted to put their lives at risk.’
In a 2018 trans-Tasman stoush over Australia’s deportation regime, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said New Zealand didn’t ‘contribute really anything to the defence effort’ towards stopping boats.
Lees-Galloway said he had met Dutton twice last year and discussed regional efforts to curb people smuggling, but that no pressure had been applied by the Australian government.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters also said he had fielded no request from Australia, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters the funding did not reflect a change in New Zealand’s policy stance.
‘New Zealand has always focused on point of departure to stop people from losing their lives. Usually that’s through things like information campaigns,’ Ardern said.
New Zealand’s government, meanwhile, is also spending about NZ$140 million over five years to increase its annual refugee quota from 1,000 people to 1,500.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP