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Processing arrangements for boat arrivals clarified.



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Philip Ruddock MP MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS

MEDIA CENTRE

Processing Arrangements For Boat Arrivals Clarified

MPS 45/2003

Although the boat which arrived off the coast of Western Australia on Wednesday afternoon had entered Australia's Migration Zone it did not reach the Australian mainland, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Mr Philip Ruddock, confirmed today.

'Importantly these people have not set foot on the mainland and this sends a strong message to any other would-be illegal arrivals,' Mr Ruddock said.

The Minister confirmed that the unlawful arrivals would be processed in accordance with Australia's Migration Act.

'These people have been detained in accordance with the Migration Act and will have an opportunity to present any claims they wish to make to Departmental officers,' the Minister said.

'However, it would be pre-emptive to suggest that any of these people are asylum seekers.

'Once at the processing facility they will be interviewed to ascertain who they are, where they are from and why they have come to Australia.'

The 53 people, believed to be from Vietnam, are currently en route to Christmas Island aboard HMAS Canberra. They are expected to arrive sometime over the weekend.

The Minister added that although Christmas Island is an excised territory the fact that these people first entered Australia's migration zone at Port Hedland means that they will be processed under Australian law.

'The Migration Act requires unlawful non-citizens to be detained. These people are being transferred to an Australian detention facility in accordance with the Act,' Mr Ruddock said.

'It should also be noted that this group is not the first to be processed under Australia law on Christmas Island - it is nothing unusual.

'Officers from my Department are already on Christmas Island and the Centre is expected to be fully operational by Saturday.'

4 July 2003

Media Contact: Ann Duffield, 0409 842 069