A post incorrectly claims to show Australian warships turning away people trying to enter the country illegally

21st Jul 2020


This image of two boats surrounding a third shows Australian warships turning away a ship of people trying to enter the country illegally.


This is incorrect. The image is from a territorial row between China and Japan in 2012. However, Australia does have a policy of turning back boats.

An image shared thousands of times on Facebook claims to show Australian warships turning away and arresting people on a boat carrying illegal immigrants.

This is incorrect. This image is from a flare up in 2012 of tensions between China and Japan over islands in the East China sea. The picture shows a smaller boat from China being surrounded by the Japanese Coast Guard as it left one of a cluster of uninhabited islands, which are controlled by Japan under the name the Senkaku islands but claimed by China under the name the Diaoyu islands. Japan considers the waters around the islands their territory, and regularly dispels protesters or visitors to the deserted islands.

However, while the description of the image is incorrect it is true that Australia turns back anyone undertaking an “unauthorised boat voyage”. Under Operation Sovereign Borders, which was set up in 2013, boats are either sent back out of Australian waters, or passengers are brought ashore and sent back to their origin country via plane or other methods. Information on the number of these “turnback” operations, and how they are conducted, is limited and may be incomplete, and multiple sources have noted the lack of details from the Australian government around such “on-water matters”.