A way to stop the boats

AN IRAQI refugee who turned to people smuggling to get his family into Australia has a simple solution to stop the asylum seeker boats.
Nanjing Night Net

Ali Al Jenabi, who has also helped fellow refugees get free passage to Australia, said processing people in Indonesia with a set deadline for decisions would stop them risking their lives in leaky boats.

”When they get to Australia, they know the government has to respond to you within 90 days. If they stay in the camps in Indonesia, they have no idea how long they will be there,” he said.

”They don’t trust the system. They have seen people stuck there [Indonesia] for years, unable to work, unable to speak the language, so they take the gamble – even though they are afraid of the ocean.”

The 41-year-old, who now lives in Villawood in Sydney, sent his family on boats from Indonesia. He said most people would never undertake the perilous journey by sea if they felt they would be treated fairly and quickly.

He spoke to The Sun-Herald last week after the arrival of four boats with an estimated 392 people aboard – two of which sank, leaving at least 18 dead and up to 76 missing – and the political impasse on a solution that followed.

Mr Al Jenabi also explained that the latest arrivals stemmed from fear that Australia’s unstable political position on asylum seekers would lead to changes that would lock them out forever.

The latest asylum seeker boat got into trouble last Wednesday morning. In an unusual development, a passenger on the boat had the Canberra phone number of the Australian Federal Police operations co-ordination centre and called it directly for help when the boat was sinking.

The AFP said it was the force’s first contact with the boat and the phone number was easily found on its website. But it did not respond to questions on whether the AFP had had any previous contact with that passenger.

A former Australian diplomat and Refugee Review Tribunal member, Bruce Haigh, said politicians and the special committee set up by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to try to end the impasse over asylum seeker policy, should listen to the likes of Mr Al Jenabi before making any decisions.

Mr Haigh said the debate was being driven by people who had never met or spoken to a refugee. ”This is like the white South Africa approach to apartheid, with white people making decisions about black people without ever having visited where they live,” he said. He agrees with Mr Al Jenabi that asylum seekers should be processed in Indonesia and then brought safely to Australia in stages.

Mr Al Jenabi fled Iraq after being tortured by Saddam Hussein’s regime and arrived in Indonesia in 1999, intending to get to Australia by boat. But when he was swindled by a people smuggler who took his money and did not give him a place on a boat, he accepted an offer to work in the smuggling business to make enough money to get himself and his family to Australia.

His story, told in a new book, The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny, reveals the complex world of people smuggling and how refugees themselves can become involved in organising their own boats and inadvertently be seen as smugglers.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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