Thursday, October 22, 2009
Boat Built for Tsunami Victims Used to Smuggle Asylum-seekers
SRI LANKAN asylum-seekers have sailed to Australia in a boat donated by Catholic charities to a devastated coastal community in the wake of the 2004 tsunami.
Thirty-two young, smiling men arrived at Flying Fish Cove at Christmas Island early yesterday after a voyage across the Indian Ocean from the east coast of SriLanka, bypassing Indonesia asa staging post on the perilous journey. A sign on the bow of the boat revealed it to be one of 10 vessels built on contract for Catholic charities Caritas and Misereor to donate to fishermen in a Tamil-dominated region on Sri Lanka's east coast following the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, which destroyed many coastal villages.
The latest group of asylum-seekers had steered their boat to within seven nautical miles of Christmas Island when an RAAF P3 plane spotted them just west of the tiny Australian territory about 2.30am local time.
Caritas's eastern human and economic development wing, together with German Catholic charity Misereor, had donated 10 multi-day fishing boats last December to fishermen operating in the Koralaipattu North division, on the border of Batticaloa and the northeastern district of Trincomalee.
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
October 22, 2009
Australia's boat people
Stay the Bloody Hell Where You Are
The national phobia about boats from the north
WHEN Kevin Rudd became Australia’s prime minister almost two years ago, many thought they had heard the last loud discords
about asylum-seekers landing on Australia’s northern shores. But a recent increase in numbers of boat people has reignited the
issue. This is straining Mr Rudd’s pledge to soften the former conservative government’s hard edge towards asylum-seekers. It
is also testing Australia’s relations with Indonesia. In Jakarta this week for the inauguration of Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono, Mr Rudd persuaded Indonesia’s president to accept 78 Sri Lankans for processing in the country. Australian
authorities had rescued them from a boat between Sumatra and Christmas Island, an Australian territory. A week earlier, to
oblige Mr Rudd, Indonesia’s navy intercepted a boat with 250-odd Sri Lankans heading for Australia. Now moored in West Java, its
passengers are refusing to disembark. Australia has now offered Indonesia more help to deal with boat people. In 2001 John Howard, Mr Rudd’s predecessor, exploited public
anxieties about boat people when he orderedtroops to board a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, to stop it bringing 430 rescued
asylum-seekers to Australia. His Labor government last year ditched other harsh Howard measures. Mr Rudd’s mantra is “tough but humane”. Now in opposition, Mr Howard’s old political allies are shrilly blaming Mr Rudd for the boats’ reappearance. A year ago only
about 200 people were being held in immigration detention centres. By early this month there were 1,270, most on Christmas Island, where boat people are processed. Yet the rise also
coincides with a growth of people fleeingc onflicts in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which account for almost three-quarters of Australia’s detainees. And the numbers are
tiny compared with the 14,000 “unlawful non-citizens” who, authorities say, melted into Australia in 2007-08 after arriving by air and overstaying visas. Nonetheless, Mr Rudd’s approaches to Indonesia have a populist
impulse: the fears, long embedded in the Australian psyche, of swarms of arrivals in the country’s north. An opinion poll this
month by the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think-tank, found 76% of people are concerned about asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. Relations with Indonesia have rarely been better. But there is another sensitive issue: Australian police’s recent decision to
reopen the case of the “Balibo Five”, Australia-based journalists whom Indonesian troops murdered during their invasion of East Timor 34 years ago. Winning Jakarta’s
co-operation on both this, and clamping down on people smugglers may be tricky.