6 Chinese men trying to reach Australia by boat are detained


Six Chinese nationals who tried to travel to the Australian mainland on a boat they hired in Indonesia have triggered a biosecurity operation over coronavirus fears. 

The six men, from Jiangsu province in eastern China, caught a flight to Bali on New Year's Day and then paid an Indonesian crew to take them to Australia later in January. 

The small wooden fishing vessel caught the attention of Border Force officials as soon as it reached the Ashmore Islands north of Broome - just inside Australian Territorial Waters. 

The Border Force officials made the boat turn back to Indonesian waters. 

The men and their two Indonesian crew are now being detained by Indonesian police on a naval base on Rote Island in the country's East Nusa Tenggara province - confined to their ramshackle boat as a quarantine precaution against coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, more than 600 Australians still trapped in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak will be airlifted out an quarantined on Christmas Island, prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday. 

The six Chinese men, named Fan Shenghong, Cui Hennggo, Hang Yongsheng, Wang Sisen, Han Baolin and Chu Kaishan, went from Bali to East Timor then returned to Indonesia, local police told the publication. 

While in East Timor the group organised the fishing vessel and its two crew to transport them to Australia for a fee of $1,000 each and set sail later that month. 

'In the Australian waters, they were intercepted by a Border Protection vessel and returned back as soon as they found Chinese onboard', Rote police deputy commissioner Bambang Hani Wibowo said. 

Operation Sovereign Borders is particularly secretive about tactics used to thwart boats attempting to smuggle people into Australia. 

However, after the boat was intercepted by Border Force officials it was next seen floating back in Indonesian territorial waters. 

Past operations by the agency have been known to give intercepted vessels just enough fuel to make it back to Indonesian waters but not enough to reach the Australian mainland or Christmas Island. 

Indonesian police and navy vessels then approached the fishing vessel. 

Officers from Indonesia were reportedly seen wearing thin surgical masks as they dealt with those on board. 

'As we identified they were Chinese, we then contacted the health office to make sure they were not having the corona infection syndrome. So far they are clear of the symptoms,' Mr Wibowo said. 

Arrangements are now being made to hand over the boat's occupants to immigration officials for questioning. 

On Wednesday Australia's prime minister announced Australians in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began would be airlifted out to a quarantine station located on Christmas Island. 

A consular team in Shanghai was previoulsy dispatched to Wuhan to help negotiate their evacuation.

'They are being crosschecked to ensure there is no double-counting because sometimes you will have multiple family members report the same person, but at this stage, approximately 400 registrations have been placed with Foreign Affairs,' Health Minister Greg Hunt said. 

Five people are being treated in Australian hospitals for the virus but Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said they were all in a stable condition.

Health Minister Greg Hunt warned the disease is of 'pandemic potential' and the number of cases in the country is expected to rise as more are tested every day.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk

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