The police on Monday said that a fishing boat with more than 100 people from Delhi and Tamil Nadu may be heading to New Zealand, Reuters reported. The boat’s location is currently not known. Two officers involved in the case said Prabhu Dhandapani, arrested from Delhi in connection with the investigation, had told police the vessel was moving towards New Zealand.
According to the officers, the boat departed from Kerala’s Munambam harbour on January 12 and could be carrying between 100 to 200 people. Officer VG Ravindran said the police had recovered more than 70 bags left behind by those on the boat as well as around 20 identification documents.
“The bags are full of dry goods and clothes, suggesting they were preparing for a long journey,” said officer MJ Sojan. “The people and boat are missing somewhere in the sea. Many Indian agencies, including the coast guard, are trying to locate the boat.”
New Zealand’s immigration department warned anyone trying to cross illegally by sea about the possibility of drowning, reported the New Zealand Herald. “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,” said Immigration New Zealand Assistant General Manager Stephen Vaughan. “There is every chance you will drown at sea.”
Cyclones and storms are common in the straits between Indonesia and Australia, the most likely route for the boat from India.
Although there had never been such a mass arrival in New Zealand, the country was undoubtedly a target for people smugglers, said Vaughan. “We remain vigilant to any possible venture,” he added. According to New Zealand’s laws, those part of a mass arrival can be detained for up to six months, which can then be increased by 28 days at a time.