A sunken fishing vessel, believed to be carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers, is seen off the beach at Cape Kimberley. Picture: AAP/Brian Cassey
A sunken fishing vessel, believed to be carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers, is seen off the beach at Cape Kimberley. Picture: AAP/Brian Cassey

Asylum seeker search ends as ‘skipper’ nabbed

BORDER Force officials have nabbed two more illegal Vietnamese boat people - believed to be key figures in an alleged people smuggling operation - in the Daintree.

Senior sources told The Courier-Mail the two men were detained at a police checkpoint after attempting to cross on the Daintree River ferry this morning.

Police have not yet been stood down from the search in the dense Far North Queensland jungle but SES crews have been told they are no longer needed.

 

A sunken fishing vessel, believed to be carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers, is seen off the beach at Cape Kimberley. Picture: AAP/Brian Cassey
A sunken fishing vessel, believed to be carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers, is seen off the beach at Cape Kimberley. Picture: AAP/Brian Cassey

 

Authorities are still working to confirm the number of illegal arrivals off a sunken people smuggling boat near Cape Kimberely was 17 in total as early reports put the figure as high as 30.

The Courier-Mail can also reveal the last two detained - believed to be the skipper and first mate of the sunken trawler - had allegedly phoned ahead to be picked up in a van at Noah Beach, near Cape Tribulation.

It is understood they contacted other members of the alleged people smuggling syndicate, believed to be based out of Sydney, where the rest of the group was headed before they were captured.

A senior ABF source said: "We're still trying to confirm the identities and motives of the two men picked up this morning".

"But we're fairly confident we've got the total number".

The ABF has been contacted for official comment.

 

A jumbo left Cairns Airport last night to fly members of the group to Darwin detention centre. Picture: Brendan Radke
A jumbo left Cairns Airport last night to fly members of the group to Darwin detention centre. Picture: Brendan Radke

 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton yesterday confirmed the boat that ran aground in Far North Queensland was "the first people-smuggling venture" in more than 1400 days.

He also issued an extraordinary warning that 14,000 asylum seekers were lined up waiting to come to Australia.

Last night, an unmarked white jumbo left Cairns Airport to fly members of the group who were already detained direct to Darwin detention centre for repatriation back to Vietnam.

 

Police inspect vehicles near the location of the sunken fishing vessel. Picture: AAP/Brian Cassey
Police inspect vehicles near the location of the sunken fishing vessel. Picture: AAP/Brian Cassey

 

Mr Dutton said the would-be ­migrants would be deported "as quickly as possible … once we understand all the facts".

"We have been very clear that we won't allow people who arrive illegally to settle in this country," he said.

Australian Border Force has come under intense criticism for the unexplained breach in the so-called "ring of steel" around "Fortress Australia".

New PM Scott Morrison - who initially oversaw the ­nation's Stop the Boats operation - has been left red-faced by the breach.



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