Asylum seekers’ crabbing adventure before arrest
THE first asylum seeker boat to reach Australian shores in almost four years resulted in more than a dozen Vietnamese scurrying into the Daintree rainforest.
The far north Queensland rainforest isn't just home to some of the country's deadliest snakes and spiders, the surrounding waterways are also full of crocodiles and sharks.
So when local fisherman Justin Ward spotted two men hiding in the rainforest's mangroves, he knew their overnight survival was deserving of at least a beer and a quick fish.
Speaking to 9 News tonight, Mr Ward said he pulled the two men onto his boat and cruised through the rainforest with them.
"We gave them a ride up the river and had a few laughs. Got them to help us to pull in a few crab pots," he said.
After a relaxing afternoon, the Queensland fisherman told the men the sad news, that he'd have to hand them into the dozens of police searching for the asylum seekers.
"I wasn't exactly sure what we were all talking about all the time but everyone was laughing," he said.
Up to a dozen people are reportedly still on the run in the Daintree Rainforest with authorities concerned the group have no access to freshwater and are battling far north Queensland's array of deadly creatures.
Since the boat ran aground on Sunday, the group has been dodging crocodiles, venomous snakes and giant cassowaries - one of the world's deadliest and most aggressive birds.
As another local put: "I reckon these poor buggers picked the worst bloody patch of the country to break into."
Locals said passengers from the rickety vessel disappeared into the dense forest near the Daintree River, north of popular tourist city Cairns, in the tropical far north of Queensland state on Sunday.
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan told the ABC 15 passengers had been found so far.
State Emergency Service area controller Peter Rinaudo said earlier his crews were searching through the mangroves and near the mouth of the river, reportedly with dogs.
"It'll be a hard slog, it's still quite warm in there and it'll be tough conditions for the guys," he told the ABC. "I hope the people, however many there are, get located - it's not a nice area for them to be in."
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the partially sunk vessel had come from Vietnam and was the first boat of asylum-seekers to reach the country since 2014.
"Australia, we believe, has received the first … people-smuggling venture in over 1,400 days," Mr Dutton told reporters.
"We will work with the agencies to make sure we can repatriate these people back to their country of origin, once we understand the facts of the matter."
Most asylum-seeker boats that have arrived in Australia in recent years embarked from Indonesia, though some originated in Sri Lanka.
- With Wires