Tag Archives: boats

A story of tragic experiences…

11 Sep


The image of that boat crashing against the rocks will never leave me. Neither will the memory of that phone call from the hospital asking whether we had any body bags because they had run out.

In the few weeks leading up to the crash, I had been heading into the office very early in the morning, sometimes before 4.30am. Christmas Island was four hours behind Canberra time (because of daylight savings), so I would go and get as much done while Canberra were at their desks. That way, I could be ready and available to help my staff when they arrived in the office at North West Point.

For the previous few mornings, the summer swells had been really big. There had even been community bulletins put out for the Kampong area (opposite the jetty at Flying Fish Cove) warning against freak waves that could swamp the ground-floor apartments.  All the offload operations and first day processing had been put on hold until the weather died down. We had a couple of Customs and Border Protection boats (including Navy boats) out on the water with asylum seekers on board, waiting to disembark once it was safe. (They had all been transferred off their own vessels because of the dangerous conditions.)  Each morning, I’d head down to the jetty to have a look at the conditions, trying to work out if the offload was likely.

On the morning of the 15 December, I did just that – drove past the jetty (at about 5.45am, a bit later than usual) and then went on to the office.  The swells was enormous and I knew, as soon as I saw the cove, that we wouldn’t be doing an offload operation that day. It was simply too dangerous.

Almost as soon as I parked my car and walked into the detention centre front gate, my phone rang to say that an unexpected boat had arrived – unintercepted by the Navy (as sometimes happened) – and was dangerously close to the shoreline down in Settlement (one of the main residential areas on the island). The boat crashed against the rocks shortly after 7am and we had a disaster on our hands… Continue reading

Is there a queue?

15 Jul

seminar on QueueAre boat people queue jumpers? Most people have never really stopped to ask themselves the question. We just assume they are. After all, we know that there are lots of people in the world who sit in refugee camps for decades, even generations. Why are the ones who can afford to get on a board more deserving of a new life in our country than the wholes who can’t?

As with most aspects of the issue of asylum seekers, the truth is not so simple. And, of course, the more complex an issue is, the harder it is to sell to the voters and the more quickly the public stop listening… Continue reading

How far has Australia regressed?

7 May

ImageOver the last few weeks, the Australian Government have been toying with an idea that is truly worrying.

You have to have your head stuck in the sand if you don’t think Australia has a problem on its hands.  In the past seven days, nearly 1000 people have arrived by boat to Australia, seeking protection.  These asylum seekers, under the policy of Mandatory Detention (a policy maintained by both this government and the last), are housed in detention centres or other detention-type facilities until basic health, identity and security checks can be complete.

When the Labor government came into power (in 2007), they very quickly executed their election commitment to no longer house women and children in secure detention centres, but rather in ‘alternative places of detention’ (APODs) or the community (where appropriate).  While technically still in detention, this meant that children were no longer housed behind barbed wire fences, as they had been under previous governments.

In August last year (2012), in an attempt to break a political and policy deadlock, the government announced the re-establishment of offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat.  This was a massive flip from their commitment at the 2007 election, where they promised to close the Manus and Nauru centres.  By re-opening them, they had effectively re-introduced the last of the policy framework that they had sought to dismantle after the 200 election win – offshore processing and temporary visas.

The other thing they did, without perhaps realising (and certainly without saying it) was re-introduce the detention of children.  While no children have been transferred to Nauru, the Manus Island centre (in PNG) does have children behind fences.  Under the local law (and certainly in the retoric of the Australian Government), these kids are not techically in ‘detention’, but for all intents and purposes, they are. In fact, the local government in Manus has made it clear that they want this thing to run the same as last time – when it was a full blown detention facility… Continue reading


Boat intercepted off Broome, WA

15 Apr

Boat intercepted off Broome, WA

They would have you think that this is evidence of a new approach by people smugglers to have people aim straight for the Australian mainland. The problem is, indications are that this boat had been on the water for a while, meaning that it probably left before the other Sri Lankan boat (that arrived in Geraldton last week) arrived.  So it may be a new wave, but its more likely just a coincidence. Sure, it may trigger something more in the future, but I doubt this boat waited until it saw how things went for the Geraldton boat before leaving their point of embarkation. But the media don’t like to let the facts get in the way of a good story.


Drones to detect Asylum Seekers?!

11 Apr

Drones to detect Asylum Seekers?!

…and just in case you thought I was kidding when I said that the opposition was making a big deal of how much of a National Security threat asylum seekers on wooden boats are, check out this article about how they’re going to use un-manned drones to help with the detection of asylum seeker boats. Sounds cost-effective, doesn’t it.


66 people arrive by boat in Geraldton, WA

9 Apr

66 people arrive by boat in Geraldton, WA

Lets see what the Australian government do with this group of Sri Lankan asylum seekers…

The last few weeks have been shocking – for all sorts of reasons

8 Apr

imagesThe last few weeks in Australian politics has been shocking. After threats of a challenge to the leadership of the Labor Party (and, therefore, the Prime Ministership), the political discussions seems to have settled down, once again, into a shallow cat and mouse game between people who should know better, but clearly don’t.  To top all the excitement off, the government announced some non-changes to superannuation and the PM went on a trip to China. (The trip was supposed to be to attend a conference convened there by a former Labor Prime Minister, but has turned into a great opportunity for the PM to make it look like she cares about the North Korea situation).

Unfortunately, when the cats and mice are doing their thing, the rest of us tend to not hear about other important things that happen… Continue reading

It happens all too often…

25 Mar

ImageA couple of weeks ago, we heard reports of Thai officials shooting some ‘boat people’ (asylum seekers). This week, we hear another tragic story of loss of life – this time at the hands of the sea.

Reports are emerging of an unfolding marine incident about 14 nautical miles north of Christmas Island (Indian Ocean) where a boat carrying around 95 Asylum Seekers capsized at about 8am (local) this morning. Australian Customs and Border Protection are involved in a large-scale search and rescue after reports emerged of (at least) two deaths. (The surviving passangers are currently involved in ‘first day processing’ by Australian government officials on Christmas Island.)

These boats are dangerous. People get on them with very little choice – by the time they see the boats, they can’t really turn back.

Every loss of life is tragic. The loss of someone as vulnerable yet hardy as the kind of asylum seekers who are coming to Australia is, somehow, even more tragic.



Asylum Seekers shot in Thailand

16 Mar

Link - Asylum Seekers shot in Thailand

According to the United Nations, there is concern that the Thai Navy shot dead at least two Rohingya asylum-seekers who fled northern Myanmar by boat. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the shooting allegedly took place on 22 February while the Navy was transferring around 130 people from the boat they had arrived in into smaller boats.


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