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Boat lands on Christmas Island undetected -

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Boat lands on Christmas Island undetected

The World Today - Wednesday, 8 April , 2009 12:42:00

Reporter: David Weber

ELEANOR HALL: A Christmas Island resident says a boatload of about 40 suspected asylum seekers
landed on the island last night.

More than 60 asylum seekers were intercepted near Ashmore Island last week, and they were taken to
Christmas Island for health and security checks.

But there's little information about this latest group, which appears to have slipped through
Australia's border protection net; as David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: Stephen Watson rang ABC Radio in Perth this morning, and said he believed a group of
Iraqis had arrived at Christmas Island undetected.

STEPHEN WATSON: The navy have been sitting out there all night for the processing of the most
recent 60 or 63 that everyone knows about but under their noses, in comes a nice little boat this
morning with another 40 on it. Tie up to the jetty without anyone's knowledge whatsoever.

DAVID WEBER: Mr Watson said authorities on the island had apparently been alerted because he saw
police taking people from the boat onto the jetty.

STEPHEN WATSON: You know the whole panic system set in where you have got the whole police and of
course all the immigration people all down on the jetty putting them into vehicles to, I'd suggest,
they are going without knowledge. Take them out to the detention centre to have them, again through
the process medically checked. Which is...

REPORTER: And how many do you think Steve?

STEPHEN WATSON: Yeah, there is you know, 40. I am on the understanding they are Iraqis but I don't
honestly know that.

DAVID WEBER: He said he hasn't seen anything like it happening on Christmas Island before.

Mr Watson said asylum seekers were usually brought in by the navy.

STEPHEN WATSON: The process has been that they've come in through the system but when you consider
that the navy are sitting out there half a kilometre from the shore with the processing happening
and one ties up to the jetty at four-o'clock in the morning. I mean it is a bit of a laugh. You
have got to ask yourself what about the early process of seeing who is out there in our waters.

REPORTER: Sure, so as far as you are concerned, they are not escorted. They have just tied up by

STEPHEN WATSON: Oh, absolutely. Without any doubt. I mean these people have let themselves onto the
island of Christmas Island with women, children and basically totally unescorted. No knowledge by
anybody in the processing system whatsoever.

DAVID WEBER: Mr Watson has said Christmas Island residents felt they were never properly informed
about what was happening with the processing of asylum seekers.

STEPHEN WATSON: This whole process as far as residents are concerned; and I; it's hard to speak for
everyone but I do talk to a lot of people and we have a consensus generally that, you know, the
residents aren't even in the picture.

We get told what is going to happen here on Christmas Island as a resident. We are treated very
much like second class citizens since the whole process has begun.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Christmas Island resident, Stephen Watson ending that report from David

And the Federal Government has confirmed the arrival of this boatload of people.

The Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus says 45 people are believed to be on board, with Customs and
Immigration officials now managing the situation.

He says the group will be detained on Christmas Island to undergo health, security and other checks
to establish their identity and the reasons for the voyage.

But the statement contains no explanation about how the boat was able to land on Christmas Island