Australia launches criminal probe into asylum shipwreck Skip to main content

Australia launches criminal probe into asylum shipwreck


Click to play
The BBC's Nick Bryant said bad weather had caused particularly rough seas

Related stories

Australia is launching a criminal investigation into the Christmas Island shipwreck that killed at least 28 people, under people trafficking laws.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said more bodies may be pulled from the sea after a boat carrying suspected asylum seekers crashed into jagged rocks.
She said the boat may have been carrying more than the 70 passengers originally thought.
Forty-two people were rescued from the heavy surf after the boat broke apart.

Analysis

Australia's asylum seeker debate is often conducted as if the people heading for its shores were an abstraction, with the term "boat people" almost shorn of its human meaning.
With such harrowing images from Christmas Island broadcast on early evening news shows, millions of Australians would have seen the anguished faces of those seeking to reach its shores, and witnessed the lengths to which they would go to get there. Put simply, it was shockingly real.
Tabloid sensationalism in Australia is normally turned against the asylum seekers. They are often regarded as "queue jumpers", unwilling to go through the normal channels to seek asylum. Asylum seekers arriving by plane do not attract the same attention, nor what refugee groups would call the same paranoiac reaction.
The disaster has already escalated the boat people debate, although the country's politicians have temporarily called a truce in respect for the dead. Whatever its outcome, after the tragedy on Christmas Island the debate has a human face.
"We do not know with any certainty how many people there were on the boat so we've got to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that more bodies will be found and that there has been further loss of life than we know now with the numbers available to us," said Ms Gillard.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said as many as 100 people may have been on board - some 30 more than originally believed.
The passengers of the flimsy wooden boat are believed to have been asylum seekers making their way to Australia via Indonesia.
The route of the vessel and the identity of who organised the journey are still unclear.
In recent years increasing numbers of people from countries such as Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan have been making their way to Australia in boats organised by people smugglers.
"It is an evil trade," said Ms Gillard. "But I believe Australians are responding to these events today as human beings."
The policy of how to handle immigration remains a sensitive one in Australia and Ms Gillard called on the opposition to join a bipartisan inquiry into the tragedy.
Click to play
Julia Gillard: "We have got to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that more bodies will be found"
Ms Gillard's Labor Party only won a second term in August after securing the support of the Greens and independents.
Both the Greens and independent MP Rob Oakeshott have again called for a softer line on asylum policy.
'Extreme conditions' Questions have been asked about how the boat managed to elude the Australian agencies charged with watching the country's sea approaches.

Christmas Island

  • Named by British sailor William Mynors, who sailed past on Christmas Day 1643
  • Annexed by British Crown in 1888, administered from Singapore
  • Australia paid Singapore £2.9m in compensation for the island in 1957
  • Australia opened its A$400m detention centre in 2006, and it now houses nearly 3,000 asylum seekers
  • Population of about 1,300, more than half of whom are ethnic Chinese
Christmas Island lies in the Indian Ocean about 2,600km (1,600 miles) from the Australian mainland, but only 300km south of Indonesia.
The boat approached the island early on Wednesday. The alarm was raised when residents heard the passengers' screams as heavy seas propelled the vessel onto the island's rocky shoreline.
Witnesses said the boat was smashed to pieces within an hour and survivors struggled to hang on to pieces of wreckage in the pounding surf.
It is believed the engine on the vessel failed, and island residents said the seas were the heaviest they had seen in months.
One resident, Simon Prince, told Associated Press: "The engine had failed. They were washing backward and forward very close to the cliffs here, which are jagged limestone cliffs, very nasty.
"When the boat hit the cliff there was a sickening crack. All the people on board rushed to the land side, which is the worst thing they could do."
Ms Gillard said the "extreme weather conditions" meant the boat was not detected "until seen from Christmas Island itself".
"In very rough and dangerous seas there is a limit to what can be achieved through radar and other surveillance mechanisms," she said.
Christmas Island is home to a detention centre housing nearly 3,000 asylum seekers who are waiting for their claims to be processed.
Graphic 
 
 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12006085

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Chronology of the Press in Burma

1836 – 1846 * During this period the first English-language newspaper was launched under British-ruled Tenasserim, southern  Burma . The first ethnic Karen-language and Burmese-language newspapers also appear in this period.     March 3, 1836 —The first English-language newspaper,  The Maulmain Chronicle , appears in the city of Moulmein in British-ruled Tenasserim. The paper, first published by a British official named E.A. Blundell, continued up until the 1950s. September 1842 —Tavoy’s  Hsa-tu-gaw  (the  Morning Star ), a monthly publication in the Karen-language of  Sgaw ,  is established by the Baptist mission. It is the first ethnic language newspaper. Circulation reached about three hundred until its publication ceased in 1849. January 1843 —The Baptist mission publishes a monthly newspaper, the Christian  Dhamma  Thadinsa  (the  Religious Herald ), in Moulmein. Supposedly the first Burmese-language newspaper, it continued up until the first year of the second Angl

Thai penis whitening trend raises eyebrows

Image copyright LELUXHOSPITAL Image caption Authorities warn the procedure could be quite painful A supposed trend of penis whitening has captivated Thailand in recent days and left it asking if the country's beauty industry is taking things too far. Skin whitening is nothing new in many Asian countries, where darker skin is often associated with outdoor labour, therefore, being poorer. But even so, when a clip of a clinic's latest intriguing procedure was posted online, it quickly went viral. Thailand's health ministry has since issued a warning over the procedure. The BBC Thai service spoke to one patient who had undergone the treatment, who told them: "I wanted to feel more confident in my swimming briefs". The 30-year-old said his first session of several was two months ago, and he had since seen a definite change in the shade. 'What for?' The original Facebook post from the clinic offering the treatment, which uses lasers to break do

Myanmar Villagers Tell of 150 Homes Burned in Deadly Army Air Attacks

Artillery fire and aerial bombardments by Myanmar forces killed three civilians and burned scores of houses in their communities in mid-March amid fighting between Myanmar forces and the rebel Arakan Army in war-ravaged Rakhine state, villagers recounted Monday at a press conference. Villagers from Kyauktaw township in western Myanmar's Rakhine state discuss the government military's attacks on their communities at press conference in Sittwe, March 30, 2020. They made the comments after traveling from in Kyauktaw township to the state capital Sittwe to give testimony on a series of attacks on civilian dwellings amid a government-imposed internet shutdown in nine townships in Rakhine and neighboring Chin state, cutting off vital information about the fighting. They villagers accused the Myanmar Army of conducting an aerial bombing on civilian communities that destroyed about 150 homes and a monastery in Pyaing Taing village, while government soldiers on the g