A fishing boat that is suspected to be carrying about 100 to 200 Indian migrants could be on the way to New Zealand, the police said on Monday, January 21. Authorities have said that those on board include women and children and it is feared that this could be a case of human trafficking.
The boat is said to be carrying people from New Delhi and Tamil Nadu and left Munambam harbour in Kerala on January 12. A person from New Delhi was then arrested and questioned and he has hinted that the boat could now be on the way to New Zealand.
The police have also recovered about 70 bags that were left behind by these migrants, along with scores of identification documents. "The bags are full of dry goods and clothes, suggesting they were preparing for a long journey," MJ Sojan, an officer, told Reuters.
"The people and boat are missing somewhere in the sea. Many Indian agencies including the coast guard are trying to locate the boat," he added.
If the boat is indeed headed to New Zealand, it will have to endure some of the world's roughest seas. The particular route through Indonesia and Australia is known to witness frequent cyclones and storms and authorities in New Zealand have said that the boat most likely will drown.
Immigration NZ assistant general manager Stephen Vaughan did not specifically speak about this case, but told TVNZ thus: "While reports of these types of ventures are concerning, the message to anyone contemplating such a journey is simple: Any attempt to reach New Zealand will put your life, and the lives of your family members, at great risk. There is every chance you will drown at sea."
Immigration NZ also explained that the nation has never seen mass arrivals as such, but was prepared to deal with the situation if the need arises. It also said that it was working with its international partners for emergencies like these.
"Although there has never been a mass arrival in this country there's no doubt that New Zealand is a target for people smugglers and a mass arrival at some stage is a very real possibility that we need to be fully prepared for."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hasn't commented on the issue and said that she hadn't been briefed on it.
What happens if the boat arrives in NZ?
In case the fishing boat endures the rough seas and arrives in New Zealand, the large number of migrants will be detained under the Immigration Act 2009. The act provides for detention for upto six months, which can be be extended for up to 28 days at a time.