Third illegal boat lands in remote pocket of WA’s Kimberley region

Hannah Cross & Lisa Thomas
The Nightly
2 Min Read
It is believed more than 100 ADF personnel flooded the Mungalalu-Truscott airbase.
It is believed more than 100 ADF personnel flooded the Mungalalu-Truscott airbase. Credit: Megan Powell/WA News

An illegal boat has landed off the coast in WA’s north in the third undetected landing in just five months.

And now a frantic search is underway for a man WA Police believe may have been a passenger on the unknown vessel, who became separated from the group. There were 15 people in the group, The Australian reported.

“WA Police have this afternoon been advised the man may have been a passenger on an unknown vessel carrying a group of people which landed in a remote area of the Kimberley district on Friday,” a police statement said.

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“The land search operation is in its preliminary stages and is taking place in an extremely remote area with challenging terrain.”

Police face a significant challenge as they search for the man in the large expanse of wilderness that makes up the Mitchell Plateau.

It is believed more than 100 Australian Defence Force personnel flooded the Mungalalu-Truscott airbase, in the far north Kimberley, on Saturday afternoon in response to the arrivals.

The group, who are believed to be Chinese, reportedly wandered on to the airbase about 4pm on Friday, the second since November at the Wunambal Gaambera-owned airbase, about 36km north-west of Kalumburu.

It is believed to have triggered major border force activity, including drone searches between the airbase and nearby Low Island.

Border force boats were also patrolling the Kimberley coast, with several special craft launched in waters off the Truscott airstrip.

Several planes were landing and leaving the RAAF Base Curtin, about 30km south of Derby, including a small plane believed to be ferrying passengers to and from the base for processing before they are sent to Nauru. A Nauru Airlines flight from Brisbane was due to arrive at the Curtin airfield about 5.20pm.

“As is long-standing practice, we do not confirm or comment on operational matters,” a spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said.

An Australian Border Force spokesperson also said it “does not confirm or comment on operational matters”.

The Kimberley has seen several illegal boats arrive since November, with the most recent in February, a group of 39 men from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They arrived in two groups, and were discovered after wandering into the Beagle Bay community.

In November, another group walked into the Truscott airbase before being taken offshore. Each non-citizen who has reached Australian shores by boat since November has been sent to Nauru.

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