FEATURE: Chinese asylum seekers take Australian option

The group made the decision after being warned they would be endangering their lives in attempting the Tasman crossing in their small yacht. [ABC]
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The group made the decision after being warned they would be endangering their lives in attempting the Tasman crossing in their small yacht. [ABC]

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Chinese asylum seekers given deadline

Created: 10/04/2012

Emma Masters and staff

Last Updated: Wed, 11 Apr 2012 16:30:00 +1000

A group of 10 Chinese people, including two children, have abandoned plans to sail to New Zealand and will seek asylum in Australia.

The Chinese nationals have been camping at a Darwin wharf while they decided what to do after they were rescued at sea adrift in their yacht last Thursday.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed the news after the group held talks with officials in Darwin for more than seven hours today.

It is not yet known where the asylum seekers will be taken although they had earlier said they did not wish to stay in Darwin.

Mr Bowen says he is pleased the group has decided to seek asylum in Australia.

"I obviously think that's a good outcome, as it means they won't be yet again taking another further dangerous boat journey," he said.

"We'll now process them in the normal way. They'll be processed for their asylum claim, security checks will begin."

Mr Bowen says it would not have been an easy decision for the group.

"They've weighed everything up, I'm not going to speculate on what led to that decision, certainly we didn't enter into any special arrangements for them," he said.

"But we explained how the process would work and certainly of course made it clear that they're entitled under Australian law to claim asylum in Australia."

The group made the decision after being warned they would be endangering their lives in attempting the Tasman crossing in their small yacht.

Risking death


Earlier, a commercial fisherman who rescued them when they were adrift in the yacht off the Northern Territory coast said they were lucky to make it as far as they did.

Grant Barker responded to the group's distress call for fuel and water at sea, about 240 kilometres north of Darwin.

Mr Barker told the ABC earlier that their small yacht is designed for leisure cruising and, coupled with a lack of sailing experience, the plan was a recipe for disaster.

"You can tell pretty much straight away, I've been fishing for 30 years, whether people have any idea of ... seamanship and these guys had very limited skills," he said.

"No one was able to throw ropes properly, ties knots properly, they had difficulty getting drums across to us to get water.

"They were wearing life jackets at the time even though it was calm."

Mr Barker said that while the vessel was seaworthy the group faced death if they went ahead with their plan.

"I'd agree that it is seaworthy but it is only seaworthy for sheltered waters and weekend frolics around the Whitsundays.

"It is not equipped for a voyage of that magnitude.

"My concern is they will go to sea again and, if they do, they will probably die."

Federal Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the actions of the Chinese group demonstrates how the system is being abused by the practice of "country shopping".

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