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Dec 19, 2011

Tragedy at sea: over 160 asylum seekers feared dead

Crikey media wrap: Over 160 people are feared dead after an unseaworthy boat packed with asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran sank off the coast of Indonesia yesterday.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Over 160 people are feared dead after an unseaworthy boat packed with asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran sank off the coast of Indonesia yesterday. The tragedy again sparked debate over asylum seeker policy and offshore v. onshore processing.

There are differing accounts of survivor numbers, with Indonesian authorities saying 34 people are confirmed safe — including two small boys, while Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said 87 people were rescued by Indonesian fisherman. The boat was packed with between 215-250 asylum seekers — including 40 children — although it had an official capacity of just 100.

Survivors spoke of their escape to news.com.au:

“Khadzim Huzen, a 30-year-old Afghan, told AP that after the big wave hit, the ship started tipping into the water, and everyone rushed to the front. A fight broke out for life jackets.

There were only 25, he said, and nine already had been taken by the crew.

‘In the end, as everything was being swallowed up by the water, we just grabbed hold of anything we could,’ he said. ‘We formed small groups in the water and tried to help each other stay afloat.'”

Tom Allard in the Canberra Times explains how people smugglers sent the asylum seekers on their deadly voyage:

“Many of the asylum-seekers flew from Dubai to Jakarta, where Indonesian officials are said to be ready for the migrants to arrive, charging them each $500 to pass through the airport without visas.

They arrived over several days and were taken in four buses on a 23-hour journey to an unknown location on Java’s south coast.

The modus operandi highlights the increased confidence of the smugglers and the huge demand for their services.”

Cardinal George Pell, who was openly critical of John Howard’s treatment of asylum seekers in the early 2000s spoke publicly yesterday about the need for the government to adopt offshore processing.

“The people-smugglers are evil and irresponsible money-makers prepared to risk the destruction of their passengers. These deaths are a tragedy,” Pell told The Australian. “It’s difficult to see any alternative to the government and opposition promptly agreeing on effective offshore deterrents. Australians do not want more tragedies like this.”

Time to focus on the kingpins in the people smuggling war, not the bit players, writes Susan Metcalfe (author of The Pacific Solution) in The Age:

“I understand that it can be difficult to catch the heads of operations in other countries, and that corrupt officials often collude in smuggling operations. But there is no excuse for Australian laws that do not discriminate between different levels of involvement and do not allow room for leniency where it is warranted.

Like many other asylum policies and laws created for political reasons over the past decade, this is simply another that is ineffective, unfair and has no logical basis.

Both parties should now support investing more heavily in tracking those dealers who run the people-smuggling shows in the region.

If the Coalition genuinely wants a policy that deters boat arrivals and ensures the safety and rights of refugees, it should work with the government to ensure the security of anyone returned to Malaysia.”

The Coalition must help the government pass changes to the Migration Act to allow offshore processing so that these deadly boat voyages end, says The Australian‘s editorial.

“The people-smugglers are responsible for the deaths, but the onus is on Australia to do everything possible to stop the boats.”

88 comments

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88 thoughts on “Tragedy at sea: over 160 asylum seekers feared dead

  1. GeeWizz

    Labor, the Greens, the lefties and the bleeding hearts have more blood on their hands this week.

    All this just to try and prove how more “humane” they are letting cashed up queue jumpers who have flown through multiple safe havens steal humanitarian spots from real refugee’s sitting in camps for 20 years.

  2. McFly Marty

    I think it’s time for the left to take a step back and acknowledge just how intellectually dishonest their assertion that “pull factors” weren’t relevant were when they dismantled howard’s border protection scheme.

  3. Peter Ormonde

    Troofie …

    The plural of refugee is refugees – not refugee’s. Please try and understand this.

  4. Ronson Dalby

    I have to wonder if the Indonesian government is encouraging these boat trips for some reason or another. Refugees coming by air and then being transported by four buses in a 23 hour journey is not exactly a covert operation.

  5. GeeWizz

    [“I have to wonder if the Indonesian government is encouraging these boat trips for some reason or another. Refugees coming by air and then being transported by four buses in a 23 hour journey is not exactly a covert operation.”]

    The Indonesian government may indeed be encouraging these boat trips, but one thing I don’t doubt in my mind is that the Australian government is encouraging them.

    This was Labor and the lefts plan all along.. get as many boats to land as possible. For the first 3 Years of this incompetent Labor government they couldn’t even admit there was a problem and still refuse to admit Nauru worked and will work again.

    Dillard should have the intestinal fortitude to pick up the phone to the President of Nauru. If as she says TPV’s and Nauru will no longer work…. then prove Tony Abbott wrong and do it.

  6. McFly Marty

    It makes me sad to say this but as a liberal humanist I think i prefer a few sewn-lips and suicides of the Howard regime to the mass death policy of the ALP.

  7. ronin8317

    So much blame for the ALP but none for the High Court? It’s the High Court Justices who made ALP’s Malaysian offshore processing illegal, and that triggered all the new boat arrivals.

  8. eric

    These disasters will just keep happening while we have to rely on corrupt Indonesion officials to do the right thing and arrest the people smugglers and not take their bribes!

    Also desperate people will always do desperate things – its just human nature.

    GeeWizz
    Posted Monday, 19 December 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “Dillard should have the intestinal fortitude to pick up the phone to the President of Nauru. If as she says TPV’s and Nauru will no longer work…. then prove Tony Abbott wrong and do it”.

    You are missing the fact that she cannot do anything like sending refugges to Narau or anywhere ofshore for that matter as your mob led from the front by phoney Tony has the legislation blocked.

  9. McFly Marty

    So why aren’t we pressuring the Indonesians to do something about by threatening to withdraw a million dollars of AID for every boat that leaves? That would solve the problem pretty quickly but Gillard, just like Gough and Paul, are too weak and spineless to stand up to Jakarta.

  10. GeeWizz

    [“So much blame for the ALP but none for the High Court? It’s the High Court Justices who made ALP’s Malaysian offshore processing illegal, and that triggered all the new boat arrivals.”]

    After Labor announced their “Malaysian Solution” and before the high court ruling there was around 1400 new boat arrivals.

    800 people just isn’t enough, the plan was a a joke.

    I personally think Abbott should have allowed the Malaysian plan to go ahead just so we could all witness what a terrible failure this PM is.

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