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Tough New Anti-People Smuggling Legislation Passed

12 June 2002

The Government has today passed tough new legislation cracking down on people smuggling, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said.

The legislation makes people smuggling and trafficking in persons criminal offences. Those offences carry heavy, deterrent sentences of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

“The legislation enables us to ratify the United Nations Convention on Transnational Crime, and its protocols on people smuggling and trafficking.

“People smuggling now competes with drug trafficking as one of the most lucrative areas for international criminal organisations. An estimated US$10 billion a year goes into the pockets of crime groups from this activity.

“Coordinated international cooperation is needed to stamp out this evil.

“New Zealand will demonstrate its commitment to play its role in this by being one of the first countries in the region to ratify the Convention.

“Passing the legislation is also a critical step towards ensuring that New Zealand can protect its borders against illegal migration.

“While our geographic isolation has helped protect us, we cannot take for granted that this will continue to keep people smugglers from targeting New Zealand. There have been persistent rumours of so far unsuccessful efforts by the smugglers to organise the departure of a ship from Indonesia to New Zealand.

“Any attempt to reach New Zealand would undoubtedly put at risk the lives of those who entrusted themselves to the people smugglers. Boats are usually unseaworthy and hundreds of people have drowned when overloaded craft have sunk.

“The legislation and continuing efforts by New Zealand working regionally and in Indonesia are necessary to deter the people smugglers and prevent human tragedies.

“Other powers in the new legislation enable New Zealand authorities to seize and detain craft in New Zealand’s territorial waters, facilitate confiscation of ships used for smuggling and any proceeds of the crime; crack down on sale of passports to criminal groups; extradite people smugglers; and enhance our ability to cooperate internationally to prevent, investigate and prosecute transnational offences,” Mr Goff said.

All Phil Goff’s media releases and speeches are posted at www.beehive.govt.nz

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