Fact check: Image is from Australian refugee incident in 2001

The claim: Image shows people transported in stalled cargo ships

The backlog of cargo ships waiting to unload goods has spurred false claims about how many ships are waiting along the California coast and who is to blame for the backup

The latest of these claims to have drone footage of a stalled cargo ship. 

"Drone Footage of those Cargo Containers on West Coast and East Coast surely the same. Still think Everything is fine?" reads a graphic shared to Facebook on Oct.7, showing a large group of people huddled outside stacks of shipping containers.

The post received over 400 interactions since it was shared on the social media platform. The Oct. 5 TikTok video the graphic originates from spread even more widely, with over 1,800 likes and 700 shares.  

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But this picture has nothing to do with the present backup of container ships, depicting instead Australia's "Tampa affair" from 20 years ago. 

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook and TikTok users for comment. 

Image taken 20 years ago

The image was actually taken in August 2001 aboard a Norwegian container ship called the MV Tampa, according to the Australian Associated Press.

This was the original caption:

Handout picture of some of the 438 asylum seekers onboard the Norwegian cargo ship MS Tampa on Monday 27th August, 2001. The boat people where rescued from their sinking ferry in international waters and remain onboard the ship which is anchored off Christmas Island. Australia refused the boat permission to enter Australia's waters and Indonesia has since taken a similar stance. 

The rescued refugees – mostly Afghans fleeing the Taliban – were stranded in the Indian Ocean while en route to Australia hoping to gain political asylum.  

The rescue gained notoriety for the Australian government's refusal to grant landing permission to the freighter and the MV Tampa's captain, Arne Rinnan, ignoring the government to bring the refugees to the nearest port on Australia's Christmas Island, The Guardian reported. Many refugees were in need of medical care.

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The event became known as the Tampa affair and left a deep impact on the country's refugee policy, according to Amnesty International

ICE: No recent reports of human trafficking at U.S. ports

The post and the TikTok video imply cargo ships at U.S. ports are involved in human trafficking. But there haven't been any recent reports of such activity, ICE spokesperson Mary Houtmann told USA TODAY.

Fact check:California trucking regulations aren't to blame for cargo backlog

"We have no reports of container ships in U.S. ports involved in human trafficking," she said in an email.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an image shows people transported in stalled cargo ships. The image was taken in August 2001 when asylum-seekers were rescued by the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa in the Indian Ocean. There have been no recent reports of human trafficking through U.S. ports, according to ICE.

Our fact-check sources:

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