Asylum seeker boat smashed at Christmas Island

Desperation and death at Christmas Island. Picture: Channel Nine

The death toll rises by the hour; local people weep and hug one another as a woman slips beneath the waves; the Prime Minister, the navy, customs officials are accused of having blood on their hands.
In the wake of this unspeakable horror on Christmas Island – and how poignant a name at this time of the year – accusing fingers are being pointed everywhere.
They shouldn’t have come, say those who believe the asylum seekers should have remained in Iraq and Iran. The navy should have stopped the boat before it reached the treacherous rocks in wild seas, say others.
And then there is the woman at the top – Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Is it her fault…is her Labour Party’s ‘open door’ policy for asylum seekers the reason this group of between 80 and 100 desperate people headed for Australia to start a new and happy life?
Only a full inquiry will provide the answers and there is no doubt one will be called.
In the meantime we can only pause and reflect on the terror those people faced at the very end of their long journey. They could never have imaged that the freedom they longed for, freedom that was literally only a few meters away, would have ended in cries of terror as the rocks smashed their flimsy wooden boat to pieces and the waves engulfed them.
‘It is heart-stopping,’ said one resident as she watched people struggling in the wild sea. ‘It’s carnage, a terrible tragedy.
‘The sea is awash. None of us can get out to rescue them from the shore. It took a customs boat ages to get to them.’
Mr Simon Foster, an island resident, told the West Australian newspaper from a cliff overlooking the crash site that the boat was upside down in the sea and debris was scattered across the surface of the Indian Ocean.
‘It seems the boat crashed into jagged rocks below the cliffs as it tried to land at Flying Fish Cove.’
Mr Foster said the seas were as rough as he had seen in many months, and it was through the wild weather that the boat had attempted to land at Flying Fish Cove, the only landing point on the island for vessels.
‘There is so much stuff in the water that you can’t tell what is debris and what is people.
‘I have heard that a navy boat was cruising around picking people out of water but it it’s hard to tell what’s going on. I definitely would not want to be out in that water at the moment whether you were in the water or in a boat – it’s shocking out there’
Mr Kamar Ismaill, a local councillor, rushed to the cliff top and saw at least two or three bodies in the water.
‘We were throwing out ropes and lifejackets but no-one could grab on to the ropes.
‘I saw children hanging onto the side of the boat, just holding on.
‘There were others hanging on to rocks and what was left of the boat.
‘Wave after wave was coming in and it was very, very rough. The rocks were very jagged and it’s a very steep area around there.
‘It was just a horrible situation, just so sad.’
Hundreds of asylum seekers have made their way to Australia in the past year, most from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.




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