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Clark says NZ not an easy target for asylum seekers

Written by kumaran   // July 14, 2011   // Comments Off

new asylum

Former prime minister Helen Clark has waded into the debate over asylum seekers, saying it is “highly unlikely” people-smuggling boats will reach New Zealand.

A boat carrying 87 Tamil asylum seekers, including women and children, was detained on Saturday by the Indonesian Navy. Many on board were photographed holding signs saying they wanted to go to New Zealand. Prime Minister John Key has said it was “inevitable” that asylum seekers would one day reach New Zealand by boat.

He sent the Tamil asylum seekers a strong message that they were “not welcome” in New Zealand and claimed letting them into the country would open the floodgates to “millions” of others and reward “criminal” people smugglers.

Labour said Mr Key was overstating the problem.

Ms Clark, who now heads the United Nations Development Programme in New York, said boats trafficking asylum seekers tended not to be “particularly sea-worthy”. ”It’s a very very long trip from South East Asia or from South Asia, for that matter, to New Zealand over very difficult seas,” she told TV3. “So just the shear logistics.”

Ms Clark, whose Labour government accepted 150 Afghan refugees from the Tampa in 2001, said taking those asylum seekers did not make New Zealand look like a soft target.

“What made me proud of being a New Zealander was that people came to our shores with nothing, accepted as refugees, and you saw incredible success stories.”

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