22 people saved by Christmas Island community effort
Minister for Justice and Customs
Media Release
28 March 2001

An emergency rescue effort by the small community of Christmas Island yesterday successfully located 22 people drifting helplessly in the Indian Ocean, Justice and Customs Minister, Chris Ellison, said today.

The Minister praised the efforts of Christmas Island Australian Federal Police officers who coordinated the search. Volunteers from Christmas Island, the Captain and crew of the Australian research vessel Southern Champion, as well as the pilots and crew of the Christmas Island Community Airlines aircraft formed part of the emergency search and rescue operation.

"Despite their isolation and with limited resources available, the AFP, local volunteers, and crew from the Island's airline and the Southern Champion responded swiftly, using their local skill and knowledge to avert this potential tragedy," Senator Ellison said.

"The 22 suspected illegal immigrants include three children, four women, one of whom was pregnant, and 15 men. All are of middle-eastern origin," Senator Ellison said.

Earlier that day two Indonesian crew had been located close to Christmas Island aboard a makeshift raft by local fisherman. Upon their return to the Island they were turned over to the Australian Federal Police.

"As a result of investigations conducted by the AFP, it was ascertained that the vessel was adrift without water, food or emergency equipment. The vessel was also taking on water."

Senator Ellison stated that when located, all 22 people were dehydrated, sunburned and in poor physical condition and could have perished had they not been rescued.

"Three out of the 22 have been admitted to hospital."

"This demonstrates just how dangerous it is to attempt an illegal entry into Australia," Senator Ellison concluded.

"The syndicates who operate people smuggling have no regard for the lives of the men, women and children concerned."

"Anyone contemplating illegal entry to Australia should be aware that they risk their life."

Media Inquiries Nicole Johnston 02 6277 7260 or 0419 217 918

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