SYDNEY (AP) — Two foreign journalists on assignment for The New York Times Magazine arrived on a remote Australian island in the Indian Ocean after traveling on board a boat with dozens of asylum seekers, officials said.
The American and Dutch journalists, identified by The New York Times as Luke Mogelson and Joel van Houdt, walked off the boat Monday morning after it landed on Christmas Island, where Australia operates a detention camp for asylum seekers, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said. Both had valid visas and were cleared by immigration officials on arrival.
The two are frequent contributors to The New York Times Magazine, the Times said in an emailed statement.
“We were glad to receive the news that they and the other 57 people on the boat are safe,” the statement said. “Luke and Joel did take safety precautions, and they both had legal visas to enter Australia.”
Christmas Island, located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, is a popular destination for asylum seekers who crowd into rickety boats in Indonesia and pay smugglers to take them to Australia. Hundreds have died while attempting the journey in recent years.
Australia has been grappling with the best way to discourage such risky journeys, and recently announced it would no longer accept asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Verified refugees will instead be resettled in Papua New Guinea or the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru.
Border protection was a key issue throughout Australia’s recent election campaign. The conservative Liberal Party-led coalition swept to power in elections Saturday amid promises it would “stop the boats.”
Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott says his government will implement a new policy under which the Australian navy would turn back boats carrying asylum seekers. The coalition also wants the Australian government to buy old fishing boats from Indonesian villagers to prevent the vessels from falling into the hands of people smugglers.
That idea was sharply criticized Sunday by a senior Indonesian lawmaker, who said it was insulting and would threaten relations between the two countries.