A Polish man has sailed across the remote Torres Strait in wild, stormy weather on a raft made of “twigs, string and sticks” in an apparent attempt to claim asylum.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority told The West Australian the man was found yesterday afternoon washed ashore in a mangrove swamp on Saibai Island — a small piece of Australian territory 8km from the Papua New Guinea mainland.
It is believed PNG police tried unsuccessfully to stop the man from making the bizarre voyage.
It is monsoon season in Australia’s north and the man faced wild seas and wind gusts of 50 knots.
An AMSA spokeswoman said the agency was warned by PNG police yesterday afternoon that the man was attempting the journey and began a search.
“We were obviously concerned for his safety and launched a helicopter,” she said.
Locals on Saibai were also alerted and began scouring the island.
AMSA said the man was found and had been transferred south to Thursday Island for medical treatment.
The AMSA spokeswoman said the man had no possessions and no EPIRB distress radio beacon.
The Immigration Department confirmed a man claiming to be Polish arrived on Saibai Island.
“It is believed he travelled from Papua New Guinea on a makeshift raft,” a spokesman said.
“Department officials will interview the man as soon as possible to ascertain his reasons for travel,” a spokesman said.
“It is expected that anyone wishing to travel to Australia ensures the appropriate travel documents and a visa.”
The Pole is not the first person to survive wild seas in the Torres Strait in an unusual vessel.
In 2009 two Burmese men were found floating in the Torres Strait in a big esky.
The pair claimed to have been aboard a Thai fishing boat that sank and had been adrift for 20 days. They were eventually granted asylum.