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Suspected boat people found on vessel detained at sea.

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Minister for Justice & Customs

Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Senator for South Australia



17 May 1999




The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, tonight c onfirmed that a vessel detained earlier today off the south coast of NSW was carrying suspected illegal entrants.


A preliminary search of the 45-metre vessel, which is currently under escort to Sydney, had so far found more than 80 people most of them hidden in secret compartments below decks.


Senator Vanstone said the total number of people on board would probably not be known until the vessel docked, and after a comprehensive search was conducted by Customs officers. Customs would also closely examine the vessel for anything else of interest to law enforcement authorities.


“I can now reveal that the successful interception of this vessel is the result of a difficult and long-running joint operation of Customs and the AFP which also involved strong support from the Defence Forces and the NSW Police,” Senator Vanstone said.


She said the operation which led to the interception of the vessel had begun last month after a Customs search of a passenger at Sydney International Airport.


“As a result of this and other inquiries Customs and the Federal Police set up a joint operation,” Senator Vanstone said.


“Coastwatch aircraft and the Australian Customs Vessel Delphinus were then deployed to monitor vessel movements in the coastal region south of Sydney.”


Continuing investigations had led to the operation being scaled up over the past weekend with additional assistance being provided by the Air Force, the Navy and the NSW Police.


“Late yesterday a Coastwatch Dash 8 aircraft located a suspect vessel some 15 nautical miles off the coast south of Sydney. The vessel was then kept under covert surveillance by an Air Force P3 Orion until it was stopped by the HMAS Fremantle and then boarded earlier today.


Immigration officials will interview the people on board to determine their immigration status once the vessel has reached Sydney.


MEDIA INQUIRIES: Kevin Donnellan Senator Vanstone’s office 0419 400 078