A funeral ceremony will be held in Sydney tomorrow for 12 victims of the tragic Christmas Island shipwreck, which claimed the lives of at least 30 people in December last year.

The Australian Federal Police have been working for two months to identify 30 people who were killed when their boat smashed into rocks off Christmas Island on December 15 last year. On Saturday the WA coroner released 17 bodies for repatriation, after they were successfully identified by the Australian Federal Police.

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) told Crikey that separate Islamic and Christian services had been arranged for the funerals “in accordance with the wishes of the families and in consultation with religious clerics”.

Twenty-one detainees who are close relatives of the victims will travel from Christmas Island to Sydney to attend the ceremony, while one detainee will travel from Perth. The group will be accompanied by interpreters and medical personnel to ensure appropriate health and welfare support. According to DIAC, all family members who wanted to attend the ceremony were able to attend.

A spokesperson for DIAC declined to tell Crikey where the funerals would be held or how long the detainees would be on the mainland.

“As this is a private matter, the department will not be supplying any details of the funerals and would ask the media to respect the privacy of those relatives attending the funeral,” the spokesperson said.

Tomorrow’s funerals mark two months since the initial tragedy at Christmas Island. According to media reports, some relatives have been frustrated by the lengthy process taken to identify the victims. A spokesperson for DIAC says that it was appropriate to wait for the AFP process to conclude before making arrangements for the ceremony.

According to the AFP, while many of the bodies were originally identified in the temporary morgue at Christmas Island hospital, Interpol does not consider visual identification as an appropriate form of identification.

Scientific testing — DNA profiling, fingerprint and dental comparison — have been used in conjunction with medical and dental records to positively confirm the victim’s identities.

Thirteen unidentified bodies remain in the care of the WA Coroner. The AFP says it will continue to undertake scientific testing to positively confirm the identity of each remaining victim.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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