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Another Customs Coastwatch early detection of illegals.

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Media Release


Minister for Justice & Customs

Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone 

Senator for South Australia



17 November 1999


Another Customs Coastwatch early detection of illegals


Customs Coastwatch has detected and arranged interception of a mot orised Indonesian small inter-island cargo vessel believed to be carrying illegal immigrants to Australia, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, said today.


The wooden small inter-island cargo vessel was carrying 31 people of what is believed to be Middle Eastern origin and two Indonesian crew.


The boat was detected by a Coastwatch Dash 8 aircraft at 12:30pm (Western Australian time) on Tuesday, about 100 kilometres northwest of Ashmore Reef.


The vessel was intercepted by the HMAS Bunbury while still some 40 kilometres outside territorial waters. The naval patrol boat was specifically stationed in the Ashmore Reef area in expectation of further people smuggling operations.


“I am advised that the Bunbury issued warnings to the vessel not to enter Australian waters, but the vessel continued and was shadowed by the Bunbury until being formally intercepted when it entered the territorial sea near Ashmore Reef, at about 9.20pm (Western Australian time) last night,” Senator Vanstone said.


Senator Vanstone said this latest detection and interception of a boat load of would be illegal immigrants underlined the effectiveness of coastal surveillance system in Australia.


“It is about time that the Opposition stopped their continued bleating about forming a Coast Guard and cooperated with the Government which is trying to do something positive about making Australia a less attractive destination for illegal immigrants,” Senator Vanstone said.


“Our coastal surveillance system is a sophisticated, strategically-driven operation that uses intelligence generated from a variety of sources, including defence, in Australia and overseas. It delivers the best features of a Coast Guard without additional bureaucracy of the huge overheads associated with a stand-alone service.


“With Australia's 37 000km coastline it is impossible to guarantee that there is an impenetrable barrier around the country - indeed no country in the world can or would guarantee that. However. I can guarantee that Australia has an effective coastal surveillance system that includes sophisticated surveillance aircraft operated by Customs Coastwatch, a new and growing fleet of Customs patrol vessels and the resources of the Australian Navy and Airforce. It is an integrated multi-agency approach that makes maximum use of all available resources,” Senator Vanstone said.


Early today the HMAS Bunbury took the 33 people off the small inter-island cargo vessel and it is currently returning to Australia where the people will be interviewed by Immigration officials to determine their status.



Minister available through Kevin Donnellan on 0419 400 078


rw  1999-11-18  11:08