11 May 2012

New Zealand immigration authorities catch people smuggling couple

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New Zealand immigration authorities have arrested a husband and wife couple suspected of attempting to smuggle nine women through the country.

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The largest ever people smuggling has prompted New Zealand immigration authorities to call for vigilence.

The nine women were stopped in Kuala Lumpur while attempting to board a plane and were questioned by New Zealand immigration officials via phone after their stories did not make sense.

The women originally tried to convince officials they were part of a tour group before switching their story to being old school friends. However, after not being able to identify each other by name, suspicions were raised and they were taken into custody.

"They couldn't tell us where they were staying, who paid for their tickets or how they were paid for," said Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Border Operations Manager Karen Urwin.

Ms Urwin said the group did not have enough money to pay for their supposed intentions, which were to travel around New Zealand's South Island.

"As a result all nine passengers were denied boarding to Christchurch as we doubted their intentions."

Suspicion was raised about the group after a husband and wife travelling to New Zealand were apprehended when they were apprehended and questioned about their own intentions. The wife was prevented from boarding another plane due to an alert on her passport was placed due to the belief that she had previously been suspected of people smuggling.

The husband continued his journey to New Zealand, something INZ doubted.

"That in itself was quite suspicious," said Ms Urwin regarding the husband's apparent disregard for his wife's apprehension; he was detained in Christchurch as there was insufficient evidence to detain him in Kuala Lumpur.

"We put a flag on him to say we were a bit suspicious about him but didn't have enough evidence to say 'you can't come here'.

"He got quite agitated and said 'but I've got a tour group coming tomorrow' and that's when we started to ask questions."

The apprehension of the nine women comes just a week after another person was arrested at Auckland International Airport on suspected people smuggling charges. The nine women however is the largest such arrest in New Zealand's history.
"This is the largest single offload that INZ has completed and highlights how crucial it is that we share information with our international partners to protect the integrity of our border," said Ms Urwin.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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