Mystery of man brought ashore

February 01, 2014 12:00AM

THE only asylum-seeker to reach Australian soil by boat last month was yesterday escorted to Christmas Island with a tube in his arm after 24 hours of on-water manoeuvres involving Customs, the navy and a lifeboat that appears to match descriptions of those being used to send boatpeople back to Indonesia.

The orange lifeboat hovered on the horizon off the Australian territory yesterday morning as medical officers, an interpreter and a wheelchair waited at the jetty for a seriously ill male asylum-seeker. The lifeboat was visible from Christmas Island on Thursday afternoon too, when it appeared to be shadowing or being towed by the Customs vessel Triton.

The male asylum-seeker was helped on to the island's jetty from a rigid inflatable boat from the Australian navy vessel HMAS Bathurst. He wore a wristband that identified him as the 18th passenger on the asylum boat on which he was travelling when authorities intercepted it.

Late yesterday Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the man had been brought to the Australian territory "for urgent medical treatment in relation to a heart condition". But he did not answer questions about what happened to others from the asylum boat the man was travelling on, or whether they too would be coming ashore. He also did not explain whether the lifeboat was being used to turn the asylum-seekers back to Indonesia.

But Mr Morrison did indicate Border Protection Command's dealings with the remaining asylum-seekers were continuing and described the incident as "a current operation".

He did not answer questions about a curious incident on Thursday when people who appeared to be asylum-seekers were seen on board the Triton at the edge of Christmas Island's main harbour.

The Weekend Australian photographed three women and at least one child on the deck just before 4pm. But Mr Morrison did not mention the incident when he spoke on Sky News yesterday.

Mr Morrison said last night he was told about the arrival of the lone male asylum-seeker after he answered questions about the immigration portfolio at a Senate committee hearing yesterday.


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