Border Security

Chinese asylum-seekers rescued after ABF interception

June 17, 2024

Monday 17 June 2024
Paul Toohey
The Australian

 Nine Chinese citizens attempting to reach Australia have been rescued by  fishermen off southern Java and detained after they claimed they were pushed  back into Indonesian waters by the Australian Border Force.
 The nine, along with three Indonesian crew members, were taken to the western  port town of Pelabuhan Ratu, telling local authorities they had been turned  back after being held at sea by an Australian naval vessel for five days.
 They told Indonesian police their wooden boat had become disabled and was  drifting about 65km off Java, when they were rescued by fishermen and taken  to Pelabuhan Ratu which has long been a departure point for illegal smuggling  vessels on Saturday afternoon.
 The group's detention is the fourth known attempt by groups of Chinese  nationals to break through to Australia this year, having been told by  smugglers that asylum awaits them should they make landfall.
 A spokesman for the Australian Border Force said it would not comment on  operational matters.
 Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said that yet another  attempt by smugglers to breach the country's borders showed the government's  "failure" to properly monitor and secure it.
 "People-smugglers are continuing to test Australia's borders because of  the Albanese government's failure to deliver adequate maritime patrol data  and aerial surveillance hours," the senator said.
 "Unless Labor shows strength and restores Operation Sovereign Borders,  the boats will continue to come, and some will break through all the way to  the Australian mainland again." The Indonesian crew members have given  local authorities differing statements.
 One said they had been "captured by the Australian navy" which  transferred them to a new "lifeboat" and pushed them back towards  Indonesia, while another claimed the navy had sent them back in their  original boat.
 An Indonesian intelligence source also questioned whether the men had  actually been rescued by local fishermen or retrieved by members of the  smuggling network, who were trying to conceal their involvement.
 The Chinese citizens and the smugglers continue to be interrogated in  Pelabuhan Ratu.
 Their detention marks an increase in attempts by small groups of mainland  Chinese who in the past have been more likely to fly in and claim asylum to  reach Australia by boat.
 A group of 10 Chinese reached the mainland in early April; a group of six  Chinese and six smugglers was intercepted by Indonesian authorities in Kupang  while trying to make for Australia, also in April; and Indonesian media reported  that in late May two Chinese nationals almost made land near Darwin when they  were put on a new boat and sent back to Indonesia after their original vessel  was burned at sea.
 In February, a boat carrying 39 Pakistani and Bangladeshi men reached the  mainland north of Broome.
 They, along with the Chinese nationals who reached the mainland, have been  transferred to Nauru.

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