Man charged in Port Hedland for people smuggling
Media Release
Minister for Justice and Customs
3 July 2003

The Australian Federal Police have charged an Australian man in relation to a boat detected near Port Hedland carrying a group of suspected unlawful non-citizens, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.

"The Australian Federal Police took the man into custody from the vessel about 9 pm last night and I am advised that he was interviewed and charged by Federal agents this afternoon," Senator Ellison said.

The 46-year-old was charged with one charge under Section 232(A) of the Migration Act 1958 for facilitating and bringing in 53 persons illegally. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment. The man was refused bail and will appear before South Hedland Magistrate's Court tomorrow morning.

The vessel involved came to notice about 11am (WST) on Tuesday (1 July 2003) off the coast of Port Hedland, Western Australia.

It was kept under surveillance by Customs and Quarantine staff until the HMAS Canberra arrived. The vessel was boarded and secured by the members of the HMAS Canberra, Customs and AFP.

Authorities discovered 53 suspected illegal non citizens on the suspect vessel, including 27 men, 17 women and nine children. They have now been transferred to the HMAS Canberra and are en route to Christmas Island.

The suspect vessel is still under guard off shore near Port Hedland awaiting the completion of quarantine inspection. The AFP will also conduct a search of the vessel as part of its ongoing investigation.

"Customs, the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Federal Police are to be congratulated on their quick response to this matter," Senator Ellison said.

"The vessel was secured very promptly and congratulations must also go to the HMAS Canberra for their quick response."

Media inquiries: Mairi Barton Ph 02/6277 7260 or 0439 300 335


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