Asylum Sailing To Australia Takes Deadly Turn

australia
John Yavuz Can/ Flickr

In North America, we occasionally hear stories of cruise ships spotting and assisting a raft-full of Cuban refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Australia has a similar situation with refugees from Indonesia. Now, the dead and missing numbers are not looking good for these asylum seekers, missing after their boat capsized near a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It highlights just how dangerous life at sea can be.

A full-scale hunt using 15 ships and 10 aircraft is under way in a giant search and rescue mission. That’s because 55 men, women and children were on deck when the vessel was first spotted via aerial surveillance. Taking the next logical step, a navy vessel was sent to intercept. Arriving on the scene, the asylum ship was gone. The following day, aerial searches caught the ship’s submerged hull.

Survivors, on the other hand, have options.The U.S. wet foot/dry foot entry test is a simple “did ya or didn’t ya get here on your own?” thing. If they did, they stay. If not, they go back rather quickly. The Indonesian version is a bit different.

The trek from Indonesia to Australia is a much more dangerous, 500-mile ocean voyage. Cuba to the U.S. is just over 100 and a good raft will get you there. In the past, when refugees got picked up by ships in Australian waters, they might have been offered the “Pacific Solution.” Under that policy, the asylum seekers were taken to the nearby Republic of Nauru where their refugee status was considered, rather than in Australia where it is not.

The current Australian government’s policy is mandatory detention for asylum seekers until their status is determined, a process that can take up to two years or more. In this case, it appears that few of the refugees will get that opportunity.

“We are humans and the human dimensions of the circumstances are very difficult to deal with,” Border protection commander Rear Admiral David Johnston said in a New Zealand Herald article.

This video gives us a nutshell version of the issue involving asylum seekers and refugees and their impact in Australia.