Images from NZ Government…
“The information we have is that there are 56 male Sri Lankans on a grossly overloaded fibreglass boat which is only 60 feet long. Our information suggests that they are not actually genuine asylum seekers, they are Sinhilese Sri Lankans. They are single men, they have families in Sri Lanka. These are not people for whom New Zealand has a responsibility simply because they say we might ultimately be their final destination,” NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs Phill Goff said this morning.
“There is no prospect of them gaining work or permanent residency visas which they say they want in their country of destination. Indeed our only concern is a humanitarian one – that boat won’t get them here alive given the distance and the high seas between Timor and New Zealand.” Mr Goff said.
“Under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention a vessel can be and should be prevented from departing that is not in accordance with safety standards and we would be urging the East Timorese and United Nations authorities to act consistently with that convention,” said Mr Goff.
“If they got to New Zealand, they would basically be treated the same as people who arrive here illegally by plane. They would be turned around or sent back. We have to act consistently with the UN Convention on refugees but there is no evidence to suggest that these people are in fact genuine refugees. They are not persons part of a persecuted minority group.
“Our strongest advice to them is not to jeopardise their lives by attempting to make a sea voyage that they would not survive.”