15 People From 'Illegal Fishing Vessel' Sent To Christmas Island

The irregular boat arrivals spent at least one night in the crocodile-infested Daintree rainforest.

Fifteen people, including women and children, who arrived in Australia by boat on Sunday are now believed to be detained in the Christmas Island detention centre.

The Refugee Action Coalition confirmed that all 15 people had been transferred to the offshore detention facility.

It is still unclear if they are asylum seekers or illegal fisherman. On Monday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton described the group as a "people smuggling venture".

However, also on Monday, the ABF confirmed that it was responding to an "illegal fishing vessel".

The Australian Border Force has not responded to repeated requests for clarification.

A packet of Vietnamese Thang Long cigarettes dropped by a fleeing asylum seeker lies on the beach at Cape Kimberley at the mouth of the Daintree River in Queensland. Photo: AAP.

If the group  are illegal fisherman, they will likely be returned home quickly, Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition told ten daily.

But if they're found to be asylum seekers, "then Australia has an obligation to assist them to make a claim and to consider any claims promptly. They should be allowed to live in the community while their claims are being considered."

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He also expressed concerns about their transfer to the Christmas Island, which is due to close in October this year.

"But the closure of Christmas Island has been announced many times. It continues to be the 'devils island' of Australia's detention regime.

Police return from a waterborne search for missing Vietnamese asylum seekers at Rocky Point at the mouth of the Daintree River in Queensland. Photo: AAP.

The boat, which is believed to have come from Vietnam, arrived on Australian shores on Sunday, near the mouth of the Daintree River. It is currently half submerged off Cape Kimberley.

The people on the boat spent an unfortunate night in the crocodile-infested Daintree rainforest.

However, in a turn of events, two of the asylum seekers were taken crabbing by locals who spotted them in the crocodile-infested waters.

Cairns fisherman Justin Ward told 9 News how he came across the two Vietnamese men in the mangroves looking "severely worried", dehydrated and hungry. Ward took them on a tour, pointing out the dangers of the mangroves.

Local fisherman Ward (left) with one of two suspected asylum seekers found on the banks of the Daintree River. Photo: AP.

"They were taking photos and taking selfies," he told 9 News.

"They weren't exactly sure what we were talking about, but everyone was laughing."

The arrival -- claimed by Dutton to be the first boat arrival in 1400 days -- has raised questions on how it managed to 'slip through' Australia's defense network.

"Clearly there has been a problem in relation to the surveillance that's taken place of this particular vessel and the Maritime Border Command will learn the lessons in relation to this particular vessel, but we'll have a look at all of that as the operation continues," said Dutton.

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Former head of the ABF, Roman Quaedvlieg, said on Twitter that it was "not unusual" for Vietnamese asylum seekers to target remote Australian coastlines.

"It's relatively easy to do; but most don't get far once landed due to the hostility and are soon detained or give themselves up quickly. Their asylum claims fail in the majority," he tweeted.