naturalfeature:australian coast

  • Australia says Chinese spy ship near war games

    A Chinese spy ship has been detected off the Australian coast near joint war games underway between the United States, New Zealand and Australian militaries, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) said on Saturday.

    The Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel was operating off the northeast coast during the Talisman Sabre war games, the ADF said in a statement.

    The Chinese ship remained outside Australian territorial waters but was inside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Coral Sea, it said.

    “The vessel’s presence has not detracted from the exercise objectives. Australia respects the rights of all states to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters in accordance with international law,” the statement said.

    More than 30,000 troops from the United States, New Zealand and Australia are taking part in biennial war games, which end in late July.

  • ‘Turning back boats’

    What does a policy of ‘turning back boats’ involve?


    A policy of ‘turning back boats’ was introduced by the Howard Government on 3 September 2001. Under this policy, named Operation Relex, the Royal Australian Navy was directed to intercept and board ‘Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels’ (#SIEVs) – that is, boats that were suspected of carrying people seeking to come to Australia without a visa – when they entered Australia’s contiguous zone (24 nautical miles from the Australian coast).1 The Navy was directed to return these boats to the edge of Indonesian territorial waters, either by operating the boat under its own engine power or attaching the boat to an Australian vessel and towing it.2 The aim of Operation Relex was to deter people from arriving in Australia by boat by denying them access to Australia.3

    Operation Relex ended on 13 March 2002 to enable information relating to the operation to be made available to the Senate Select Committee’s Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident.4 It was succeeded by Operation Relex II, which commenced on 14 March 2002 and ended on 16 July 2006.5


    The Abbott Government’s policy is to turn back boats ‘where it is safe to do so’.6 This is a key component of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, the government’s military-led inter-agency border security initiative.7 News reports indicate that since 5 January 2014 asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia have been intercepted, loaded on to single-use lifeboats and towed back to just outside Indonesian waters.8 At a Senate Estimates hearing in February 2014 it was revealed that $2.5m had been spent to purchase the lifeboats. 9

    In late June 2014, Australian authorities intercepted two boats of Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The first group, comprised of 37 Sinhalese and four Tamil asylum seekers, was returned directly to Sri Lankan authorities at sea after a cursory ‘enhanced screening’ process to determine whether or not they raised any ‘credible’ protection claims.10 The second group, comprised of 157 Tamil asylum seekers, had set sail from a refugee camp in India. They, too, were subjected to enhanced screening, and then were detained on an Australian Customs vessel for four weeks while the Australian government negotiated with Indian authorities about their possible return. When India refused, they were taken briefly to the Australian mainland and then transferred to offshore detention on Nauru.11 A case was brought before the High Court of Australia on behalf of one of the asylum seekers. Among other things, it was argued that the Australian government had unlawfully detained the asylum seekers at sea.12

    The case was heard in October 2014, and the judgment was handed down in January 2015.13 By a narrow 4:3 majority, the High Court held that the detention was not contrary to Australian law. It is important to stress that the decision turned on an interpretation of the scope of powers conferred on Australian officials under a domestic statute (the Maritime Powers Act). The judges did not engage in any detailed analysis of whether such detention was lawful under international law.14

    In November 2014, Australian authorities intercepted a boat carrying 38 Sri Lankan asylum seekers.15 The asylum seekers were assessed under the enhanced screening process, which took place on board the Border Protection Command vessel.16 All but one asylum seeker were handed over to the Sri Lankan navy, with that one individual being transferred to an offshore processing facility to further investigate their asylum claims.17

    A total of 15 boats were turned back between 19 December 2013 and January 2015,19 with four of these turnbacks involving the use of Australian-supplied lifeboats.20 Another boat was intercepted in early February 2015. The four asylum seekers on board that boat were subjected to enhanced screening at sea and then transferred to Sri Lankan authorities.21

    On 20 March 2015 a boatload of 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers were intercepted by Australian authorities and returned directly to Vietnam on 18 April, after being subject to an interview process known as ‘enhanced screening’.22 The Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, Major General Andrew Bottrell, described this return as a ‘take-back’ rather than a ‘turn-back’, as it was a situation in which Australia worked ‘with a country of departure in order to see the safe return of passengers and crew’.23 In May 2015 news outlets reported that a boatload of 65 asylum seekers had crashed onto a reef off West Timor after being intercepted, transferred to another boat and taken back to Indonesian waters by Australian authorities.24
    #push-back #refoulement #asile #migration #réfugiés #Australie #Indonésie

  • Aboriginal stories of sea level rise preserved for thousands of years

    Details of life before and after this significant sea rise, which flooded areas around the Australian coast that were previously dry land, were recorded in the oral histories of the continent’s Indigenous people.

    Nunn and his linguist colleague Dr Nick Reid have collected more than a dozen stories from different clans around the country that refer to the inundation of the coast.

    The story of Botany Bay refers to a clan that split in two. The elders headed inland, while the younger members remained on the then swampy land near the coast.

    When the elders later returned they found Botany Bay had become an ocean inlet and Georges River and Cooks River were two separate rivers, according to botanist Frances Bodkin, a Dharawal elder who was told the story by her mother.

    Given there have been no major changes in sea level since this time, Nunn and Reid suggest this story and others are at least 7000 years old and may have been preserved for several hundred generations.

    #aborigènes #peuples_premiers #australie #climat


    PHNOM PENH, April 29 (Reuters) - Cambodia has agreed to take in people intercepted while trying to migrate to Australia illegally and a U.N. human rights agency said it would provide support for the plan if needed, officials said on Tuesday.

    Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop asked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during a visit in February to take in migrants detained while trying to reach the Australian coast.

    “In principle, the government has agreed ... and we will do the work according to international standards,” Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told reporters.

    Australia’s government came to power last year partly because of a tough stand on asylum seekers arriving from Indonesia with Prime Minister Tony Abbott promising to “stop the boats”.

    Australia already has offshore detention centres in the impoverished South Pacific nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru for asylum seekers it intercepts, often in rickety boats.

    Ouch Borith said it was too early to discuss details of the plan and he denied media reports that Cambodia had agreed to Australia’s request in exchange for aid.

    U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri, who is visiting Cambodia, said the United Nations would provide support.

    “What we think is important is to note that Cambodia is well aware of its international commitment to human rights standards,” Pansieri told reporters.

    “To the extent there is any need for cooperation, we stand ready to provide support to ensure that standards are met.”

    Cambodia, which in the 1970s and 1980s saw a huge exodus of refugees fleeing war and starvation, is one of the world’s poorest countries and has been criticised by human rights groups over its record on rights.

    The number of asylum seekers reaching Australia pales in comparison with other countries but it is a polarising political issue that also stokes tension with Indonesia over border policies that have been criticised by the United Nations and international human rights groups.

    #Australie #migration #contrôle_migratoire #externalisation_du_contrôle_migratoire #Cambodge #asile #réfugié