Boatpeople risk hasn't increased: MFAT

Peter Wilson, Political Writer

A senior MFAT official has told MPs the new government's renewed offer to accept 150 Manus Island refugees, and the way it has been pushed, hasn't increased the risk of boatpeople trying to reach New Zealand.

Ministry deputy secretary Jeff Langley told the foreign affairs select committee on Thursday the offer had been there since 2013.

"I wouldn't say we have increased the risk," he said.

"I haven't seen anything about an increased risk in recent times."

National MPs on the committee were questioning Mr Langley about the consequences of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's persistent approaches to the Australian government.

They also wanted to know what MFAT knew about Australian reports that four boats carrying asylum seekers who apparently wanted to get to New Zealand had been intercepted by Australian authorities.

Mr Langley said he understood the reports involved historical incidents that pre-dated the government's latest renewal of the offer..

Throughout the hour-long briefing in parliament Mr Langley emphasised the strength and depth of New Zealand's relationship with Australia and said the two countries worked very closely on the asylum seeker problem.

"We have multi-layered contact with Australia," he said.

The MPs questioned Mr Langley about reports that some detainees on Manus Island had committed crimes, but he said MFAT didn't have those details.

"We haven't had a direct interest in delving into that."

He confirmed that any refugees accepted by New Zealand, if the offer was taken up, would have been recognised by the UNHCR as genuine asylum seekers and would undergo further intense screening.