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People smuggling vessel intercepted.

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Senator Chris Evans Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

People smuggling vessel intercepted

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Seventeen people are being transported to Christmas Island after a suspected people smuggling vessel docked alongside a floating production offshore storage facility in the Timor Sea yesterday.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said 14 passengers and three crew members were on board the vessel.

The group of passengers on board consists of 16 males and one female. Their nationalities, ages and reasons for their voyage are yet to be confirmed.

A Royal Australian Navy vessel now carrying the group is expected to arrive at Christmas Island later this week. The group will be held in detention while they undergo health, security, identity and other checks to establish their identity and reasons for their voyage.

Senator Evans said it was the second unauthorised boat arrival this year. There were five unauthorised boats last year carrying a total of 148 people, six in 2006 (60 people) and four in 2005 (11 people).

'The Labor Government has maintained extensive patrolling of our borders by Defence and Customs and has consistently made clear its commitment to maintain a system of mandatory detention and excision,' Senator Evans said.

'The government has also renewed efforts to work closely with regional countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to prevent and deter people from attempting dangerous sea journeys to Australia.'

All unauthorised boat arrivals will be detained and processed on Christmas Island and those found not to be owed protection will be removed.

Department of Immigration officials have completed initial interviews with the fourteen people intercepted on a boat near the Ashmore Islands last week.

Three of the group are Iranian nationals. Nine are from Afghanistan, which includes two teenagers. The two crew members are Indonesian nationals, one of whom is also a teenager.

The Iranian and Afghan nationals have all indicated they do not wish to return to their home countries. They will remain in detention on Christmas Island while immigration officials make a thorough assessment of any claims under Australia’s international protection obligations.

All of the adults will remain in immigration detention while security and other related checks are done. The juveniles are in alternative accommodation.

The Australian Federal Police is continuing to interview the Indonesian crew members and passengers.

'Attempting to breach Australia’s borders and the integrity of its immigration system is a serious matter and the government will continue to take robust measures to protect Australia’s borders,' Senator Evans said.

'People smuggling is an insidious trade where criminals exploit vulnerable people whose lives may be put at risk.'