WELLINGTON, July 11, 2011 (AFP) – New Zealand has refused entry to a boat load of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, saying it would only open the door to “millions of others” and reward people smugglers. A boat containing about 85 Sri Lankans who said they were heading to New Zealand was detained in Indonesian waters over the weekend.
The refugees were waving New Zealand flags and holding signs that read “Our future life is in New Zealand” and “We like to go to New Zealand”.
However, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key Tuesday said the Sri Lankan boatpeople were not welcome and that was not negotiable.
“Once you start taking people in the form of people smugglers, you are rewarding the bad guys. You are rewarding people who are putting others’ lives at risk,” he told TV3’s Firstline programme, adding there was no guarantee the Sri Lankans were refugees.
Key said New Zealand took in 750 refugees a year and would not accept anyone who did not follow the normal channels.
“There are literally millions of people in this category. It’s not a simple thing to just say ‘let’s take this boat in and be good citizens’. “If you are going to take this boat, there are just thousands and thousan