Asylum seeker builds raft from twigs to sail to Australia

Ceri Roberts
Asylum seeker builds raft from twigs to sail to Australia
Asylum seeker builds raft from twigs to sail to Australia

A suspected asylum seeker has been found washed up in a mangrove swamp in Saibai Island, a few miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Australian maritime authorities believe that he was attempting to sail from Papua New Guinea to Australia on a homemade raft - shortly after a cyclone had passed over the area. Unsurprisingly, he didn't get very far.

The Daily Mail reports that the man, who is believed to be Polish and in his 20s, sailed across the shark infested waters of the Torres Strait on a raft made from twigs held together by string.

The man, named Vazlavand, set off from Sigabadura village in Papua New Guinea and reached Saibai around 11 hours later. Residents on the island alerted Australian authorities, who sent out a helicopter and customs ship. However they were unable to locate him and he was later found by local police.

It is thought he may have been planning to claim asylum when he reached Australia and safety experts say that he is lucky to be alive.

Jo Meehan, a spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, told Agence France-Presse that navigation in the area was 'challenging' at the best of times.

She said: "It's the first time I've heard of someone trying to cross the Torres Strait in the middle of a cyclone. It's not something we'd recommend. It's quite treacherous with reefs and rocks, and he did in winds and high seas. He's very lucky to have made it."

The Sydney Telegraph reports that weather was so bad when he set out that all commercial aircraft were unable to fly in the region. Offials are baffled about his reasons for entering Australia, but he claims to have been dropped off by a yacht in Papua New Guinea.

He was later taken to a detention facility on Thursday Island, to be interviewed by Australian immigration authorities. Reports indicate that he is in good health.

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