Asylum Seeker Boat Slips Into Christmas Island Cove

20/11/2015 11:44 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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CANBERRA -- A suspected asylum seeker boat has managed to slip to within 100-200 metres of the shore of Christmas Island before being towed away by the Australian Navy.

The Huffington Post Australia understands the Indonesian fishing boat arrived at the Smith’s Point end of Flying Fish Cove early Friday local time.

Witnesses have told HuffPost Australia that the vessels have disappeared over the horizon, heading in a northerly direction towards Indonesia.

The immigration detention centre on Christmas Island is still recovering from a destructive two day riot, sparked by the death of an escaped detainee, which cost more than $10 million worth of damage.

It is not known how many people are in board, where they are from or how seaworthy the boat is.

The vessel is currently being towed out to sea by a Navy patrol boat.

The destination is unknown, but previous interceptions have led to transfers to larger Australian ships.

It may also be towed to Indonesian waters.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has called on the Turnbull Government to allow the boat to safely land and unload its passengers.

“It’s clear that, despite the government’s repeated claims, the boats haven’t stopped, “she said in a statement.

“If the Government really does care about saving lives at sea, they wouldn’t tow this boat away from Christmas Island, they would let it land safely.”

Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson has told HuffPost AU he was concerned about the seaworthiness of the boat and wanted to know whether it was given port clearance.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked about the boat arrival, specifically where crew and passengers would be taken, during a press conference in Darwin.

"As you know, we don't comment on operational matters," he told reporters. "I can't help you other than to say that we do not comment on operational matters. "

The Australian Border Force referred HuffPost AU to the Immigration Minister's office, which stated the Minister does not comment on operational matters.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Steve Ciobo said the Government will not change its border protection policies.

"Suffice to say that I think that Australians and, importantly those that are engaged in people smuggling, know the absolute resolute way Australia now deals with this matter," Ciobo told the ABC.

"We will not tolerate those people that seek to come to Australia by boat, they will be processed offshore and they will not find a home here in Australia."

Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles has called on the Minister to break operational silence.

He said Dutton should detail what refugee assessment processes are being undertaken and provide an assurance that Australia is complying with its international refugee obligations.

"It is unacceptable for this Liberal Government to refuse to answer questions about this reported vessel," Marles said in a statement.

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