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Unauthorised arrivals land on Ashmore Reef.



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Senator Amanda Vanstone MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS

Unauthorised Arrivals Land on Ashmore Reef

VPS 047/2004

The arrival of 15 unauthorised arrivals on Ashmore Reef is a timely reminder that the threat of people smuggling is real and ever present.

If we become complacent or pretend the problem has gone away, the people smugglers will resume their full-scale operations in a blink of an eye.

Labor needs to face-up to the cold hard reality of people smuggling and realise that their policies are only making Australia a more attractive destination for people smugglers.

The people on Ashmore Reef were discovered this afternoon and their identities and nationalities are still yet to be determined. Their port of departure and the route they travelled to the reef are also unclear.

The Customs Vessel Dame Roma Mitchell is currently in attendance. The crew of the vessel are assisting the group. Two Navy vessels are also en route to the reef.

The status of these people is also yet to be determined but should they make a claim for asylum, taxpayers should be spared the expense of long and drawn out legal action because Ashmore Reef is excised from the Migration Zone.

However, if these unauthorised arrivals had reached another island closer to the mainland, they would have had carte blanche access to our legal system. Labor's disallowance motion last year overturned the Government's excision of Australia's northern islands from the Migration Zone. By doing so, Labor significantly weakened Australia's defences against people smuggling.

Clearly, the threat of people smuggling still exists. Labor needs to explain to the Australian public why instead of making our borders stronger it has rolled out the welcome mat for people smugglers.

04 March 2004