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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Asylum seekers ready to risk death

Mohammad Eli

Afghan Mohammad Eli said "We'll risk death but not if the door is closed."  He added "If Australia announced the door is closed, the people will stop going there."  He firmly believes that the boats won't stop coming until our government starts sending asylum-seekers offshore for processing.  Mr Ali is a Hazara, a persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan and he says going back isn't an option.

There's a place in West Java where asylum seekers gather to wait for a boat to Australia, it's called Cisarua. Hundreds live there waiting for either the UN to settle them somewhere else or until they have scraped enough money together for a ticket to Australia.  You would think that the recent deaths of over 100 people would put them off, but it hasn't.  Many of those who died began their journey in Cisarua.

Children at the English school

Mohammad Ali teaches asylum-seeker children English in a makeshift classroom.  He actually knew the people who recently lost their lives but says as soon as he's saved enough money, he's willing to take a chance for a place in the next boat for himself, his wife and his two small children.  They have already risked their lives in a leaky boat getting from Malaysia to Cisarau.

One of Ali's pupils, Ali Esmaili, a 13 year old Iraqi boy isn't phased by the dangerous journey, "I want to go somewhere, anywhere - the U.S., Canada, Australia" he said.  Another English pupil, Nada Bahrami, an 11 years old Iraqi girl who has lived in Cisarau since she was a baby, said she knew that one group of her friends had arrived safely in Australia because she read about it on Facebook.

The price of a ticket varies between $4000 and $8000 and depends on the seaworthiness of the boat and how much the Indonesian police have been paid off.  Tickets used to be paid in cash but now the refugee only pays a small amount in cash, usually around  $500 or $1000 and the rest is given to a trusted third party  who pays the balance on their safe arrival in Australia.  Mr Ali says that while Australian politicians talk, the price goes up and down. "The price will go down when the government says the door is closed" he said.

Ewas Bahrami from Afghanistan said it was well known that local mafia run the voyages and are making huge profits.  "There are many mafia here, from Afghanistan, Iraq, many mafia here" he said.  The boats are in terrible condition, usually worn out fishing boats on their last legs.  When customers ask about safety concerns, the smugglers lie about the number of people taking the trip and when they board the boat in the middle of the night, they discover they have been lied to, as more people are crammed on board for a bigger profit.

All the people mentioned in this report are followers of Islam which makes me wonder if Muslims have the game sewn up so tight, that no non-Muslim refugees get a look in.