SYDNEY: Two journalists were found on a people-smuggling boat intercepted off northern Australia, officials said Monday, with reports they had spent three days at sea and were badly sunburnt.
The pair, one Dutch and one United States national, were on board a vessel carrying 57 passengers that was detected by the navy's HMAS Armidale off remote Christmas Island overnight, an immigration official told AFP.
"Two people who disembarked from a suspected irregular entry vessel at Christmas Island today have presented as journalists," an immigration department spokeswoman said.
"These people had valid travel documents and held Australian visas. They have been cleared by immigration on arrival."
Immigration could not say which, if any, organisation the men claimed to be from but they were later confirmed to be Afghanistan-based photographer Joel van Houdt and reporter Luke Mogelson.
They are believed to be on assignment for the New York Times Magazine.
Van Houdt's girlfriend, Amie Ferris-Rotman, said they had paid a people-smuggler in Indonesia for passage to Australia.
"Very proud of @joelvanhoudt and Luke Mogelson for becoming the first journos to get on an asylum boat to Australia," Ferris-Rotman posted on Twitter.
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.
They had been in touch since his arrival in Australia and Ferris-Rotman, a Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University in the United States, said he was fine and in good spirits.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the men had spent three days at sea and were badly sunburnt.