Queensland fishermen may have saved the lives of two asylum seekers by rescuing them from crocodile-infested mangroves.
Barry Preston and friend Justin Ward came across the two men on Monday morning and welcomed them aboard their boat.
They then called police “for their own benefit, really”, Mr Preston told the ABC.
“They probably wouldn’t have made it through the night in those mangroves, and they would have no idea of where they were.”
Before handing the men over to the authorities, the fishermen showed the asylum seekers how to retrieve crab nets, pointed out a large crocodile sunning itself near the water, and “had a bit of a banter”, Mr Preston said.
“They were quite surprised by the size of the crocs in the Daintree because one probably 12, 14 footer was on the bank and he sort of slid in and they sort of raised their eyebrows.”
The asylum seeker vessel, which ran aground north of Port Douglas early Sunday morning, was the first to reach the Australian mainland in nearly four years.
Newly-reappointed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the men would be deported.
“The threat of people smugglers hasn’t gone away and the arrival of this boat should be a very clear and timely message that people smugglers will put people onto boats, to take money from innocent men, women and children,” he said.
“We have been very clear that we won’t allow people who arrive illegally into our country to settle in this country. People will be deported from our country at the first available opportunity.”
There were reportedly 17 people aboard the boat, believed to be from Vietnam.
One of the fishermen, Mr Preston, said he attempted to find out more of the men’s story but the language barrier was difficult to overcome.
“They didn’t really have too much to say. Their English was very poor,” he said.
“They sort of mentioned they were heading towards Sydney but we weren’t too sure on that, what exactly was true.
“All we knew was they needed some help and we had to get them out.”