DEATH BY DROWNING OF PERSONS WHO ATTEMPTED TO ARRIVE IN AUSTRALIA WITHOUT AUTHORISATION BY BOAT
[Extracted from Answers to Questions taken on notice by DIMA from Committee Hearing on 30 January 2001 - JOINT COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS AND AUDIT - INQUIRY INTO COASTWATCH - and provided to the Senate in March 2001]
The known incidents that have occurred in respect of arrivals in Australia are:
Vessel codenamed 'Paroo' 24 December 1998 - one person drowned when 53 PRC nationals tried to swim ashore after their boat hit a reef near Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory.
Vessel codenamed 'Augustus' 20 July 1999 - 15 persons drowned when their boat sank near Christmas Island. Twenty passengers were left to steer the vessel to Christmas Island. The vessel's engine stopped and it started to take on water. The vessel drifted away from Christmas Island and sank 40 nautical miles from Christmas Island.
Vessel codenamed 'Xmas' 15 December 1999 - one person drowned when the vessel overturned near Cockatoo Island, Western Australia.
Vessel codenamed 'Rosalie' 21 December 2000 - three persons drowned whilst attempting to cross from Lagrange Island, in remote northwest Western Australia, to a nearby island on a raft made from drums to search for fresh water. The people on this vessel originally departed Kupang, Indonesia, on a boat with 63 passengers. A group of 39 passengers demanded to be returned to land when the seas became rough. The vessel codenamed 'Rosalie' left from Alor about 15 days later with the remaining 34 passengers on board.
In addition to this there have been a significant number of incidents when lives have been placed in danger and would have been lost but for the assistance of Royal Australian Navy and Australia Customs Service vessels on civil surveillance patrols and rescue and emergency workers in remote locations. In relation to drownings that may have occurred on the high seas or in Indonesian waters, there have been a number of reports of this nature but there is no confirmed or publicly available information on this. It would be reasonable to assume however that lives have been lost. It is known that a number of boats have been wrecked or damaged in Indonesian waters through collisions with reefs etc.