Asylum seekers taken on fishing tour after mangrove rescue
TWO asylum seekers rescued from mangroves along the Daintree River were taken mudcrabbing and croc-spotting by local fishermen before there were delivered to authorities.
Wonga Beach anglers Barry Preston and Justin Ward had been fishing near the mouth of the river on Sunday afternoon, when they were waved down by the men standing on the muddy bank on the northern side of the crocodile-infested waterway.
The men, who identified themselves as Vietnamese, had fled south through the mangroves after their fishing vessel ran aground at Cape Kimberley, 25km north of Port Douglas, just hours earlier.
Mr Preston said he and Mr Ward, during their three-hour return trip to Snapper Island, had spied the rickety-looking boat close to shore and a plane circling overhead, but initially thought nothing of it.
"We did a U-turn, went over there, and when we saw them, we finally pieced it all together and thought 'oh right - these are refugees'," he said.
"We just thought this was amazing that their boat had gotten so far down (the coast) and it was undetected."
Mr Preston feared the asylum seekers would be taken by crocs, if they had tried to swim to freedom, so took them on-board his boat.
"We thought they were going swim to the other side (of the river), because that would have been the home stretch," he said.
"When they got in the boat, and we were going up South Arm, there was a croc on the bank and we pointed it out and they said 'oh geez' - it probably a 14-footer (4.2m).
"So, lucky they didn't make a dash for it."
After ensuring the men were safe and did not require any urgent medical attention, the fishermen contacted the police, arranging to meet them at the Wonga Beach boat ramp.
Mr Preston said they purposely made their way slowly, to ensure police officers would be there at the ramp when they arrived.
On the way, the asylum seekers - who appeared to be brothers - helped the fishers check mud crab traps, and happily posed for photos.
"It was probably the best hour the refugees had, on the tour of my boat up South Arm," Mr Preston said.
"We gave them water, smokes, caught crabs, and saw crocodiles."
The duo were detained by police about five minutes after the vessel arrived at the ramp.
Mr Preston believed they had made the right call contacting authorities, to ensure the men's safety.
"When we got back there, the older of the men said 'we'll go now'," he said.
"They didn't speak very good English, but he made out like he wanted to leave, but we said 'nah, you've got to stay' - and they didn't try and fight or anything.
"To think they made it this far, and this was the end of the road for them.
"The young brother, he was in better spirits.
"The older one, he kept saying they couldn't go back, wherever they came from."
Queensland Police Service did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, instead referring all questions on the incident to Australian Border Force.