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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (February 26, 2002 – Radio Australia)---New Zealand is planning tough new people smuggling laws to show it is not an easy destination for traffickers of illegal immigrants.

The Government has introduced legislation to make people smuggling a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Phil Goff, said New Zealand can no longer rely on its isolation in the remote southern rim of the Pacific to deter trafficking of people.

The laws would also allow for fines of up to NZ$ 100,000 (US$ 41,800) for people convicted of smuggling migrants.

The proposed law change must be passed by a majority in the 120-seat single chamber Parliament.

The move comes as 56 Asian and Pacific countries prepare to hold a meeting in Indonesia to consider the growing problem of people smuggling in the Pacific region.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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