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Sunday, December 19, 2010

People Smugglers in Iraq

Madian El Ibrahimi

Madian El Ibrahimi collapsed when he heard that his young family had drowned. His tearful older brother Oday El Ibrahimi, who lives in Sydney, said Madian had been taken to the Detention Centre's hospital where he was kept under obervation. He pleaded that he be allowed to join him in Sydey because he fears he could take his own life.

Mr El Ibrahimi said his younger brother was happy but terrified when he found out his 23 year old wife, 4 year old son and 8 month old daughter were headed to Christmas Island because he knew how treacherous the journey was. Desperate to be together, his wife decided she couldn't wait any longer and decided to follow the same dangerous route from Iraq to Australia. The brothers' cousin Hussein joined the young family on the boat and he was the one who rang his uncle in Sydney and told him the terrible news.

Oday El Ibrahimi and his aunt were the first members of the family to make the trip to Australia eight years ago. They fled the Shiite holy city of Najaf after their father and other family members were executed by Saddam Hussein's regime. They now have permanent residency and Madian had decided to join his brother rather than wait for a family reunion application to be approved.

There are so many Iraqis determined to get to Australia that people smugglers are setting up business in the street, advertising their rates which are now very affordable. Prices have dropped significantly because so many more smuggling syndicates have sprung up. It used to cost $10000 but the average cost today is around $1000-$2000.

Mr El Ibrihimi doesn't believe this terrible tragedy will stop people from coming. He said "They know how dangerous it is, but they will still come". He said people smuggling was more obvious in Iraq because there was no effective central government. It was easy for Iraqi passport holders to get visas into Indonesia and Malaysia and the smugglers took the people by plane to those countries. From there, they waited for a boat to take them to Australia.