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.

The 10 smallest countries in the world

ten smallest countries in the world

The world’s ten smallest countries in terms of area fall into two general categories: European microstates (Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican) and small island nations of the Indian Ocean, Pacific, and Caribbean (Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tuvalu.) Some of these countries are quite new as independent nations: Tuvalu gained independence from the UK in 1978, while the Marshall Islands gained full independence from the US in 1986. Others have been around for a very long time. San Marino dates its founding as a republic to 301. These countries vary greatly from one another along other axes as well: population, income, life expectancy, industry, tourist facilities, and membership in various international organizations.

%Gallery-145376%

[Image of Tuvalu: Flickr | leighblackall]

Little Countries, Big World: Gadling’s pint-sized guide to the world’s smallest countries

I’m not sure what it is about small countries that makes me so interested in them. Maybe it’s the fact that they seem so manageable, so knowable. I could spend the next five years in, say, China, and still feel like I hadn’t seen a fraction of what it has to offer. But in some of my favorite smaller countries– Ecuador, Guatemala, the Czech Republic– I’ve always felt like I have a fighting chance.

As for the countries below, the world’s five smallest, you could get to know most of them pretty well in an afternoon. Here’s a quick ‘n dirty guide that proves that size, as the old adage goes, is not everything…

Vatican City

In a nutshell: The world’s smallest sovereign state at just under two-tenths of a square mile, Vatican City is headquarters of the Catholic Church and home to the Pope. The Vatican, an enclave within the city of Rome, features the magnificent Sistine Chapel, famous for its Michelangelo-painted ceiling, as well as St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s biggest Christian church.

Turn-ons: Carpenters from Nazareth, piety, extolling the Christian virtues of humility and simplicity in the midst of unparalleled opulence

Turn-offs: Prostitution, drugs, promiscuity, and just about anything else fun

Interesting factoid: The College of Cardinals has never made it to an NCAA Tournament.

Monaco

In a nutshell: Sandwiched between France and the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco is one of the world’s wealthier countries per capita, thanks in large part to its status as a tax haven. Monaco is also home to the Monte Carlo Casino, among the most famous in the world, although citizens of Monaco are not permitted to enter the casino’s gaming areas.

Turn-ons: Grace Kelly, the American actress who famously became Princess Grace after marrying Rainier III, Prince of Monaco; gambling; lettin’ it ride; pleading that Mama needs a new pair of shoes

Turn-offs: Giving people their space– Monaco has the highest population density in the world.

Interesting factoid: Monaco’s sovereignty was established by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861– and I think we all remember where we were when that baby was signed!

Nauru

In a nutshell: Nau-who? Chances are you’ve never even heard of tiny Nauru, an island nation of 10,000 in the South Pacific. Once one of the wealthiest countries per capita on Earth thanks to large phosphate deposits, Nauru’s population has mostly been impoverished since the phosphate ran out in the early 1990s.

And there’s no money from tourism either. Says Wikipedia: “Tourism is not a major contributor to the economy, because there is little to see or do here, the climate is very unpleasant, and there are few facilities for tourists.” Other than that, I’m sure it’d make a fine place for a trip.

Turn-ons: Suckling at nearby Australia’s teat for millions of dollars in foreign aid, unemployment levels over 90%, accepting Australia’s asylum-seeking rejects

Turn-offs: Skinny people– Nauru has one of the world’s highest obesity rates

Interesting factoid: President of Nauru from 2003 to 2007, Ludwig Scotty might have one of the coolest names of any president ever.

Tuvalu

In a nutshell: A group of Polynesian islands in the South Pacific, Tuvalu consists of about 10 square miles upon which 12,000 mostly impoverished people roam. Tuvalu is perhaps best-known for its internet domain suffix “.tv” which it leased to a company for a cool $50 million back in 2000. Tuvalu is also one of the countries most concerned about global warming– and for good reason. It’s highest point is only 15 feet above sea level.

Turn-ons: Naming its nine islands hard-to-pronounce things like Niulakita, Nukufetau, and Nukulaelae; thanking New Zealand for agreeing to take in Tuvalu’s residents if rising sea levels swallow the country whole

Turn-offs: Making fun of Tuvalu’s ridiculous-sounding capital of Funafuti; disparaging copra production, Tuvalu’s main industry

Interesting factoid: Want a rare passport stamp? Go to Tuvalu, where only about 100 tourists visit every year.

San Marino

In a nutshell: The Most Serene Republic of San Marino, as the country so humbly calls itself, is one of Europe’s lesser-known nations, but it’s actually the world’s oldest republic, dating from the 4th century. An enclave of Italy, San Marino is located on Mt. Titano in the Apennines mountain range. Though the tiny city-state does not have an airport, San Marino manages to welcome over three million tourists per year.

Turn-ons: Hanging out with fellow micro-states Liechtenstein and Andorra, relying on Italy for national defense

Turn-offs: Olympic medals

Interesting factoid: National Geographic points out that San Marino prides itself on its finely minted coins and postage stamps, which, when you think about it, is actually rather depressing.

World’s Fattest Places/World’s Skinniest Places

beer bellyI’m 5’10″, and I weigh about 150 pounds. I am by no means fat. However, when I lived in Zambia, I was routinely called fat by my neighbors. At first, I found it insulting, but I quickly got used to it. After all, compared to them, I was fat.

According to a recent survey by the World Health Organization, 8 of the top 10 fattest countries are located in the South Pacific — ironically, right along the equator, in an area so hot, all you want to do is remove all your clothes. If you like big butts (and you can not lie), here are the Top 10 fattest countries.

  1. Nauru
  2. Micronesia
  3. Cook Islands
  4. Tonga
  5. Niue
  6. Samoa
  7. Palau
  8. Kuwait
  9. United States
  10. Kiribati

Just to balance the scales, the Top 11 LEAST obese nations are (with the skinniest at the bottom):

  1. Zambia
  2. Burundi
  3. Central African Republic
  4. Cambodia
  5. Dem. Republic of the Congo
  6. Nepal
  7. Sri Lanka
  8. Vietnam
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Ethiopia
  11. Eritrea

The full list can be found at Forbes.

[Photo: &Y]

Our Plastic Seas and Nauru

Neil beat me to the punch on this wonderfully bizarre article on these massive floating islands of trash in the Pacific. I saw it earlier and thought it was a marvelously morbid tale. But I’d heard something about these islands a long time ago on a great edition of This American Life, and so I thought I’d post about it. The story takes us there, to these Texas-sized mid-oceanic dumps, but the second story here is the one I also think you should hear because it is one of the best radio stories I’ve ever heard.

The story is by the writer Jack Hitt and tells the tale of the island of Nauru. Nauru is one of those places that is literally in the Middle of Nowhere, but even though it is far away and hardly anyone has ever heard of it, the island’s story touches us all, in a way. The island was a key source of guano in the early century, when the Germans and others used the guano for phosphates in order to make gunpowder and other products. During a short spell, the island became awash in guano wealth, or guano dollars. But once bird turds were no longer used for this purpose because other synthetic and otherwise sources of phosphates were developed, the island went into serious decline.

Now it is a wasteland with yet another story attached: the story of Afghan refugees. I believe the story of the refugees has been resolved, but the way it is told here and the deeper history if Nauru just described makes this a fabulous Friday listening experience.