The MV Polaris livestock ship has sailed away from the Port of Townsville on Monday, leaving behind 12 crew members who claimed asylum in Australia, one of whom fled quarantine, prompting an urgent manhunt.
The crew were quarantined on board the ship when one crewman of Pakistani heritage made his dash away and into parts of the city unknown. But after a 24 hour search, the individual handed himself into a local police station.
Australian Border Force (ABF) told The Epoch Times that they were notified on Saturday that 12 crew members in total had disembarked from the vessel and had refused to re-board.
The crew, many of whom were of Syrian descent, then claimed asylum. “ABF has cancelled their visas as a matter of course,” a spokesperson for the ABF said.
The ABF said it was working with Queensland authorities to provide safe quarantine and detention of the crew.
“Individuals who wish to seek Australia’s protection from, and are found to engage Australia’s non-refoulement (non-return) obligations, may be granted permanent protection provided they are also able to fulfil the relevant visa criteria, which includes the health, character and security requirements that apply to all Australian visas,” the spokesperson said.
“However, each case is assessed on its individual merits, with the safety in particular countries being a factor of consideration.”
Queensland Health has since reported that they’ve all tested negative for COVID-19.
“Eleven crew members have been tested so far, and all are negative. One further crew member has returned a negative test result as of this morning,” a Queensland Health spokesman said on Monday.
“We are providing support to protect the Townsville community and ensure the health of officers from the agencies involved and the vessel’s crew.”
Risk to the community is considered “extremely low”, and there is no indication anyone on board the international vessel has been recently inflected.
Local MP Phillip Thompson told the Townsville Bulletin that twelve of the Polaris 3’s crew who claimed asylum have been transported for quarantine at a facility near Townsville where they will be processed.
It is believed that the crew had been on board for many months, having not been allowed to disembark at other ports due to COVID-19 concerns, The Townsville Bulletin said.