Dutton praises Malaysia for intercepting people-smuggling boat before coming to Australia, NZ

By @chelean on
A Malaysian naval officer stands in front of a Bay Class Vessel patrol boat before a handover ceremony in Port Klang, February 27, 2015.
A Malaysian naval officer stands in front of a Bay Class Vessel patrol boat before a handover ceremony in Port Klang, February 27, 2015. Reuters/Olivia Harris

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has praised Malaysian authorities for intercepting a people-smuggling boat headed for either Australia or New Zealand. There were 130 Sri Lankans hidden in a rusty tanker off the cost of southern Johor state.

On Saturday, Malaysia’s National Police Chief Fuzi Harun said that there were 98 men, 24 women, and four boys and five girls in the boat. The authorities believe the tanker, which was raided at 2 a.m. on May 1, was heading to Australia or New Zealand. They also raided a fishing boat used to transport the occupants to the vessel, as well as detained three Indonesians and four Malaysians on board. Five more Malaysians were arrested for their suspected involvement in the smuggling syndicate.

Fuzi added that 127 Sri Lankans will be charged for entering Malaysia illegally. Authorities will also look into possible human smuggling charges for nine Malaysians, four Indonesians and four Sri Lankans.

Dutton has praised Malaysia for its “great work” in intercepting the vessel. He told reporters in Canberra that people smugglers have not gone away. He also warned Labor not to open a refugee deal with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as NZ is now “being marketed as a definite destination” of illegal refugees.

“It is being marketed in the say was as Australia. People need to be careful and mindful of what they’re saying publicly,” he said, adding that the immigrants could land in Australia from NZ. “People believe New Zealand is a backdoor of getting to Australia.”

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul, meanwhile, doubted that the vessel was planning to go to NZ. He told Radio New Zealand on Monday that he didn’t think the ship was an organised operation as what the authorities claimed.

“I think, on the face of it, there’s no possibility that it could be thinking of attempting to go to New Zealand,” he said. “It’s a fairly ambitious kind of operation and it’s unlikely, given the level of surveillance between Indonesia and Australia, that a boat that size would make it.

“It’s not really a highly efficient operation that we’re talking about. I don’t think we’re looking at a very well equipped international syndicate.”

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