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Prebble Seeks Answers On People Smuggling Threat

ACT leader Richard Prebble has today written to the Prime Minister, raising with her the warnings issued by Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock that New Zealand could be the next target for people smugglers.

"Mr Ruddock's statements raise issues that require answers," Mr Prebble said.

"First, Australia and New Zealand are both applying the same criteria for determining refugee status, under the United Nations international agreement. It appears that applicants who Australia turns down as not genuine, are being accepted by New Zealand. One country must be wrong. Who is it, and why?

"Second, Mr Ruddock says he has information that New Zealand is going to be targeted by people smugglers. What is this information? Has the New Zealand government received it? If not, has the government asked for it? If the government has seen the information, how does it evaluate it?

"Third, what steps, if any, is the New Zealand government taking to prevent this country becoming a target for international people smugglers? People smuggling is a growing menace. Countries affected by it have paid a huge cost. The cost to Australia now runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Countries that have not resisted people smugglers have found themselves with thousands of displaced people. The cost of the 130 Tampa refugees that the Clark government has let in, the Prime Minister herself has conceded will, over time, cost the New Zealand taxpayer multi-millions of dollars.

"Processing the refugees and their immediate housing is just the down payment. The education, health and inevitable social costs will be significant. A ship carrying 1000 such refugees would overwhelm New Zealand's existing refugee infrastructure.

"I'm concerned that the government has been more interested in getting bouquets from international agencies than rationally looking at what policies are going to protect New Zealand's security.

"One lesson the Americans have learned from September 11 is that in the modern world there's no such thing as isolation," Mr Prebble said.


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