Asylum seeker boats arriving in Australia have prompted the Australian authorities to blame New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for their appearance.
It is important (once again) to distinguish between an asylum seeker and an economic migrant. Asylum seekers are unlikely to have documentation for reasons mentioned later in this article. An economic migrant might have left via illegal means, but is this is where the vetting system that New Zealand has, exists. It can help separate those in genuine need from those who left simply because they wanted a better lifestyle.
There are however a few reasons why getting to New Zealand might not be all that those daring – and foolish – enough to make the journey, believe.
The first reason is our weather. The Tasman Sea is comparatively small compared to the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, but anyone who has sailed or flown across it or anyone who is familiar with New Zealand weather patterns will know what an unbelievably stormy tempest it can turn into. Whether it is a tropical depression coming from the Coral Sea, a southerly storm coming off the Southern Ocean or a big northwesterly rain system coming from Australia, all of these can make what might seem like placid waters, not so placid after all. It needs to be a proper ocean going craft to make it across the Tasman Sea in the conditions mentioned.
The second reason is New Zealand customs. Maybe smugglers think New Zealand is a soft touch and that they will be let off easily. New Zealand customs are not corrupt and nor are the police. That is often the biggest surprise a lot of non-New Zealanders coming from overseas countries get when they come into contact with New Zealand authorities.
Ms Ardern says that the people smugglers are parasites. She is right. What now needs to happen though is that New Zealand introduce minimum penalties for people smuggling – say $250,000 fine per smuggler/25 years in jail/confiscation of any boats seized.
People generally do not pay people smugglers the money that they do, just so that they can get better economic conditions. These people are most likely to be from countries where law and order has broken down, where the Government is not working and might not be in full control of the country of origin. They might be from countries suffering internal strife such as ethnic persecution or civil war. They might have made a stand against a regime that was backwards, which then decided to kill them and their families, leaving them no alternative but to flee.
And what a lot of people do not understand is that authoritarian regimes do not like people leaving because they are scared that they will take knowledge of the regime with them. So, getting appropriate visas and following normal convention is not going to be possible because that will tell the regime that these people want to leave and they might then get arrested or even murdered. The people who have come to New Zealand often came from countries with non-existent consular services in other countries, so this idea that they should have just waited in line is ridiculous when the authorities will not allow the line to exist.
So, rather than blaming a New Zealand Prime Minister with a social conscience for the arrival of boats in Australia, how about Australia look at the causes of them leaving for their lands in the first place. The ambulance is no use at the bottom of the cliff.