September 09, 2013
Two journalists have arrived on Christmas Island after travelling by sea on an asylum seeker boat.
It is understood American reporter Luke Mogelson and Dutch photojournalist Joel van Houdt were at sea for three days, and are badly sunburnt.
The Immigration Department has confirmed they arrived with valid travel documents and visas.
The journalist and photographer have spoken with federal police and once they had been processed they were free to go.
Someone on the asylum seeker boat called for help yesterday morning, asking for food and water.
HMAS Armidale found the boat roughly two-and-a-half hours later, gave those on board food and water and escorted them to Christmas Island.
Customs officials say there were 57 passengers and two crew on board.
Van Houdt’s girlfriend, Amie Ferris-Rotman, says the two journalists are based in Kabul, Afghanistan, and were on assignment for The New York Times magazine.
She says they wanted to hear the stories of people motivated enough to travel from Afghanistan to Australia for a better life.
She said it had been a “long 72 hours” waiting for the pair to arrive in Australia, adding that van Houdt took a refugee boat to Spain in similar circumstances in 2008.
“He’s a war photographer so he’s done embeds with the US army, done embeds with the Afghan army, which is even more worrying, but this trip gave me anxiety,” she told the ABC.
Ferris-Rotman, a journalism fellow at Stanford University in the United States, said the men were fine and in good spirits.
Am a very proud girlfriend now, @joelvanhoudt
Arrivals raise eyebrows among locals
Christmas Island administrator Jon Stanhope says their arrival has caused much amusement.
“The presence of people who were obviously European obviously excited some interest amongst those who were watching,” he said.
“I’m advised that they were journalists. They’ve been interviewed, processed. I understand they’ve now been released into the community.
“They’ve obtained accommodation and are probably having a sleep right at this minute, I would imagine, after the voyage across.
“I was advised that they did look weary, a bit bedraggled.”
Mr Stanhope says he is hoping to have a chat with the two men, as soon as he can find them.
“I know nothing about their plans, but we only have four flights a week. We don’t have a flight today.
“The earliest flight out is tomorrow and I’m not sure they could get seats on that now, but certainly they’re here today and into tomorrow but I have no idea of their plans.”