A group of 10 Chinese nationals claiming to be members of the persecuted spiritual group Falun Dafa have arrived in Darwin by boat, and are planning to apply for asylum on Wednesday morning.
The group had planned to continue to New Zealand, but told the Queensland Falun Dafa Association they feared the seas could be too treacherous, particularly for a 60-year-old woman and two children aged six and eight. Therefore, they will be seeking asylum in Australia on Wednesday.
All 10 travelled from Malaysia where they were granted United Nations refugee status. At least two have spent long periods in China’s notorious labour camp system where they were repeatedly tortured, according to the Queensland Falun Dafa spokesman John Andress.
“We hope that the immigration department will not put them in detention, but allow them to stay in community accommodation until their cases are resolved, particularly because of the children and their grandmother,” Mr Andress told The Epoch Times.
According to various accounts gathered by the ABC, the Chinese nationals had planned to travel direct to New Zealand but ran into trouble at sea on Thursday and were picked up by Australian customs.
They have now set up camp at Darwin ferry terminal and some have been given restricted visas, which give them until Saturday to move on or file as refugees.
Members of refugee support group the Refugee Action Coalition met with the group in Darwin. The lobby group said the Chinese nationals had planned to travel to New Zealand because they were concerned about Australia’s mandatory detention laws for asylum seekers.
But if they were to continue to New Zealand across the Tasman Sea, they would face treacherous conditions at this time of year.
The Chinese regime has led a violent campaign against Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, since 1999. The Falun Dafa Information Centre has documented at least 3000 Falun Gong deaths in police custody and 63,000 cases of torture.
Falun Gong practitioners have successfully settled as refugees in Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
Australian authorities said they were powerless to detain the group until they applied for asylum.