Preventing people smuggling

Find out about the different people smuggling prevention strategies we are working on.

People smuggling is a criminal offence in New Zealand under the Crimes Act 1961. It is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.

Section 98C of the Crimes Act 1961

What ‘people smuggling’ is

People smuggling is when someone arranges for a migrant to enter, or be brought into, another country:

  • for a material benefit like a fee (these can be four times the migrant’s annual salary)
  • without caring if the migrant is permitted to enter that country.

How people smuggling harms migrants

People smugglers and facilitators (those who help them) often mislead migrants about:

  • the risks of being smuggled
  • chances of success
  • economic conditions in the countries they are smuggled into.

Migrants smuggled either by land or sea are at risk of:

  • travelling in unsuitable, overloaded, or otherwise unsafe transport
  • physical or psychological violence
  • being trafficked for forced labour or sexual exploitation
  • dehydration, starvation, and sometimes death.

International cooperation to prevent people smuggling

New Zealand has international obligations to prevent and combat people smuggling by land, sea and air. We work closely with other countries to prevent people smuggling.

Some of the ways New Zealand meets its obligations includes:

  • membership of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. This is a regional forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and practical cooperation. It helps the Indo-Pacific region address people smuggling, trafficking in people, and its related crimes.
  • co-chairing, together with Viet Nam, the Bali Process Working Group on the Disruption of Criminal Networks Involved in People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons.

The Bali Process

Bali Process Working Group on the Disruption of People Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Networks

Mass arrivals of smuggled people into New Zealand

A mass arrival is when over 30 people, who do not have permission to enter New Zealand, arrive on board one craft or more at the same time.

If there was a New Zealand mass arrival, it would most likely happen via sea. To date, no maritime mass arrival attempt has successfully reached New Zealand.

A successful mass arrival would put significant pressure on New Zealand’s resources and infrastructure. There is also the risk of migrant casualties due to unsafe conditions onboard or drowning. A successful attempt could also mean:

  • more mass arrival attempts
  • risk of more loss of life at sea.

New Zealand’s mass arrival prevention strategy

New Zealand aims to prevent a mass arrival through a strategy built on:

  • proportional response, cooperation and partnerships
  • fulfilment of international human rights and humanitarian obligations
  • the need for a proactive, flexible and evolving approach.

Working towards preventing mass arrivals into New Zealand

Budget 2019 allocated $25 million over 2019-2023 to prevent in New Zealand. Key activities include:

  • expanding New Zealand’s network of Migration Liaison Officers offshore to strengthen relationships with other countries. This means sharing information on people smuggling trends and approaches.
  • encouraging potential migrants to choose regular pathways into New Zealand
  • helping strengthen capacity and capability overseas to prevent people smuggling
  • working with other countries to find people smuggling networks, disrupt or stop them, and hold smugglers accountable.

Our work to prevent a mass arrival is part of the Government’s work on transnational organised crime and the Maritime Security Strategy: