Boats Feared Missing Accounted for in Christmas Influx

DIMA Media Release
3 January 2001

Two boatloads of illegal immigrants originally feared to have sunk last month might have been accounted for amongst the surge of boat arrivals over the Christmas period, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said today.

"Our initial information suggested the boats had disappeared in atrocious weather conditions associated with Cyclone Sam, " Mr Ruddock said.

"After conducting interviews with those who have arrived over the past two weeks, we have confirmed - as best we can - that all those reported missing from the two boats have been accounted for.

"Most have arrived in Australia unlawfully; others appear to still be in Indonesia and we expect them to attempt the journey again.

"According to passengers and crew, the boats experienced mechanical difficulties and were forced to return to Indonesia for repairs before setting out again for Australia.

"These events serve yet again to highlight the dangers in embarking on treacherous voyages in boats ill equipped to make such journeys.

"The difficulties do not cease when the boats reach Australian waters particularly at times such as the Christmas-New Year period when such a large number of boats are attempting to enter unlawfully.

"These people face untold dangers and privations including water and food shortages and disease during their journey to Australia.

"They may also face an extended period at Ashmore while Australian authorities make arrangements to transport them to the mainland.

"In the 2000 calendar year, 51 boats carrying 2,939 passengers arrived unlawfully in Australia compared with 3,722 people on 86 boats in 1999.

"Since mid-December, 12 boats have arrived with around 800 people on board and we cannot rule out the possibility that there will be more arrivals in the coming weeks," Mr Ruddock said.

Mr Ruddock said the Australian Government continued to work hard to tell would-be unauthorised arrivals of the dangers of travelling illegally to Australia.

"I will be travelling to countries in the Middle East late this week to continue discussions on the global problem of people smuggling and illegal immigration."


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