Aug. 27 (UPI) — A boat carrying Vietnamese migrants ran aground in western Australia, and up to 30 migrants are believed to be hiding in a crocodile-infested rain forest, officials said.
Eleven people were detained. The rest are being sought after they waded through waters to make landfall when their fishing ship ran aground at the mouth of Australia’s Daintree River on Sunday, The Guardian Australia reported. They are believed to be hiding in heavily-forested stands of mangrove trees in Daintree National Park, which is also home to salt-water crocodiles.
While numerous boats attempt the journey, it was the first successful “people-smuggling venture in 1,400 days,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on Monday. Australia maintains a zero-tolerance, “stop the boats” policy which has been widely criticized.
Under the policy, boats are typically intercepted at sea and migrants are returned to their countries of origin without ever arriving in Australia. The method is a way to circumvent international law, which states that illegal migrants have some protections — but only if they arrive in the country where they seek asylum. Since the policy began in 2013, the number of arrivals of asylum seekers fell from over 20,000 per year to zero, a parliamentary research paper on the issue said.
Douglas Shire Council Mayor Julia Leu who resides on the edge of the park, said the missing migrants are likely hiding in the mangroves, and that the “word is out” about their arrival.
“I’m concerned about anyone who is unfamiliar with the rain forest. Anyone who finds themselves in crocodile habitat needs to exercise extreme common sense — especially in the Daintree,” she added.
The Australia Border Force announced it responded to an “illegal fishing vessel” in the mouth of the river.