Asia-Pacific

Missing Australian student Alek Sigley released from North Korean detention

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The Perth student who was reported missing in North Korea last week is "safe and well", Scott Morrison has confirmed.

Australian man Alek Sigley says he is feeling "great" following his release from North Korean detention, but has not given any details on why he was detained by authorities there.

Mr Sigley arrived at Beijing airport after being released with the help of Swedish officials on Thursday. He is currently at the Australian embassy in Beijing and is understood to be making plans to visit his wife in Japan.

Asked how he was feeling, a smiling Mr Sigley told reporters at the airport: "Great".

"I'm OK, I'm OK, I'm good, I'm very good," he added.

Alek Sigley
Australian student Alek Sigley gestures as he arrives at the airport in Beijing on Thursday.
AAP

Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the Australian student who was studying in Pyongyang had been found safe and well.

“The DPRK have released him from detention and he has safely left the country and I can confirm that he has arrived safely," the prime minister said.

Mr Morrison said Swedish authorities had secured Mr Sigley’s release after they met with senior North Korean officials and raised the Australian's case.

“I'm sure we all could not be more pleased that we not only know where he is, but we know he is safe," the prime minister said.

"On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Swedish authorities for their invaluable assistance in securing Alek’s prompt release.

"This outcome demonstrates the value of the discreet, behind the scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases, in close partnership with other governments."

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Scott Morrison confirms release of missing Australian student
Scott Morrison confirms release of missing Australian student

Mr Sigley’s father Gary said he was unaware that his son would be released on Thursday but the family was "extremely happy" to know Alek was safe. 

“We are just so glad to hear that Alek is now safe and sound in Beijing and we can see him in a few days," he told reporters in Perth.

Mr Sigley said he had not spoken to him yet but said his son was in good health. 

He would not speculate on why his son was detained.

“He is in good spirits.

“On behalf of Alek’s family I want to extend my thanks to DFAT to the prime minister, to the foreign minister and everybody in the community who has given us support over the last week."

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Alek Sigley's family 'extremely happy' their son is safe
Alek Sigley's family 'extremely happy' their son is safe

Australia does not have an embassy in North Korea and relies on countries such as Sweden to make direct representations on the government’s behalf.

On Wednesday Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia had asked Sweden’s special envoy Kent Rolf Magnus Harstedt, who arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, to discuss the 29-year-old student’s case with North Korean officials.

Australian student Alek Sigley smiles as he arrives at the airport in Beijing on Thursday, July 4, 2019. The Australian student who vanished in North Korea more than a week ago arrived in Beijing on Thursday morning. (Kyodo News via AP)
Australian student Alek Sigley smiles as he arrives at the airport in Beijing on Thursday, July 4, 2019

Senator Payne said Australian officials discovered Mr Sigley was in detention overnight after the visit by Mr Harstedt.

"We received advice overnight the detention was in place," she told 2GB radio.

"Later in the morning the Swedish ambassador in South Korea was kind enough to advise our post in Seoul that there was a strong possibility that Alek may be able to be handed over to their Swedish delegation at the airport as they were leaving the DPRK

Senator Payne praised the work of Swedish officials in securing the release.

"The timeline was very tight and very short and without the support of our counterparts in Swedish government this would not have been possible."

When asked about the reasons for his detention, the foreign minister said: "I don’t have those details at this point".

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that the government had worked hard to secure the release of Mr Sigley. 

Concerns were raised about Mr Sigley’s welfare after family lost digital contact with him early last week.

The last contact relatives had had with the 29-year-old Australian was on June 25, when the tour guide and prolific blogger suddenly went silent on social media and other channels.

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