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Cairns boat people victims of racket

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M e d i a R e l e a s e

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MR Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Telephone: (02) 6277 7860 Facsimile: (02) 6273 4144

MRS 59/99


26 people who beached their boat on Holloway’s Beach, Cairns on 12 March this year· were victims of an organised people-smuggling racket, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said today.

Announcing their recent return to China, Mr Ruddock said the group - 22 men and four women - had been consistently lied to by the operation's organisers and had paid dearly for their ill-fated journey

“These individuals told us they paid around $US2,500 each to join the boat and were heading for Sydney where the organisers had assured them they would find work.

“They were well aware of the risks, and yet were convinced it would work for them. For example, they knew an earlie- boat carrying 52 Chinese people had arrived in the Northern Territory on Christmas Eve and that one woman had drowned

“The organisers had lied about the ultimate fate of the people on board, saying they had been allowed to stay in Australia and were working

“The Northern Territory group was repatriated in January, a full month before this boat left China, and the organisers would have been aware that the rort had failed

“Unfortunately for that group they had a !so been duped They had been told they would get jobs for the Olympics and that there would be an amnesty for illegals in Australia "

Mr Ruddock said the organisers had lied well, and planned this journey expertly.

"The Cairns boat was timed to leave clandestinely on 15 February. They had no exit permits from China, so chose to leave during the height of Chinese New Year celebrations, when harbour authorities might be less vigilant.

"They travelled via the Philippines and Indonesia without landing en route, and without making any contact with officials in those countries."

“The 35m boat cost the group nearly $US43,000 to purchase and provision. It was well fitted out, with two engines, giving it a range of some 4000 miles, global satellite navigation equipment, radar, charts, and plenty of fuel. Nevertheless, it beached in Cairns with six holes in the hull and engine and gearbox damage."

Mr Ruddock said that so far this financial year, excluding yesterday's NSW arrival, 21 boats carrying 279 unauthorised arrivals arrived in Australia, including 170 Chinese Most had since left Australia

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‘ Yesterday's arrival at Macksville on the News South Wales' coast illustrates the growing trend of unlawful people movement and the fact that Australia is increasingly becoming a target

“Australia has an absolute need for a comprehensive determination process for unlawful arrivals. A key component of this process is the Judicial Review Bill the Government is determined to implement.

‘ This legislation will restrict unlawful arrivals from frustrating and delaying their removal through endless court action and appeal. However, the Australian Labor Party has indicated they will refuse passage of this legislation.

"It i$ crucial that individuals considering illegal entry to Australia unambiguously understand that they can not simply arrive unlawfully and remain in this country for years pursuing baseless claims at the taxpayers expense

“Unless the ALP are prepared to support the limiting of judicial review they are giving tacit approval to those who desire to unlawfully make Australia their home.

‘ People smuggling is one of the most obnoxious rods anyone can experience and is recognised and condemned world-wide as an unacceptable practice

‘ This is reflected in the cooperation we receive from other Governments, particularly the Chinese, in repatriating those who have no right to be in Australia.

“I hope the Chinese community in Australia will help to get the message back to China that there is a proper and legal way of migrating to Australia - and people smuggling is not it."

ENDS Sunday, 11 April 1999

Media inquiries: Brad Robinson 0419 278 715.