September 04, 2012
THE Afghan boy who was left all alone when the asylum-seeker boat he was on sank in Indonesia last week may have found someone to look after him. An uncle is on his way from England to try to fetch him.
Immigration authorities in Merak, where Omed, 10, has been staying since the tragedy, told the Herald the boy had spoken to an uncle on the phone and the pair could be reunited as soon as today.
A spokesman for the Banten immigration office, Rochadi, said the first priority would be to check the uncle’s credentials. ”Immigration has a way of checking in these circumstances, even when the boy has no documents,” he said.
Omed’s father, an uncle and a cousin all died in the boating tragedy last Wednesday, in which 100 or more asylum seekers drowned while trying to get to Christmas Island on a broken-down fishing boat.
One passenger had his arm torn off by a shark and died after being plucked from the water.
Of the 54 survivors, 36 are staying at a hotel in Merak: 18 are in the nearby Krakatau hospital, eight more than were first admitted as the effects of trauma and exposure take hold. The head of the Merak immigration office, Mangamed Tamin Satiawan, told the Herald that Omed was brought to Jakarta yesterday morning and taken into the care of the director general of the immigration department.
The uncle in England contacted immigration authorities through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
While the boy was heartbroken and said little in the hours after being brought ashore, his mood had changed after talking to his uncle, Mr Satiawan told AAP.
”He spoke with his uncle, and was a little better. He talked a lot, telling his uncle how his skin was hurting from being in the sun, and that he had trouble eating because his lips are so badly burnt.
”He was happier. When he was leaving, he said ‘thank you’ and hugged me.” Immigration officials have been unable to find the boy’s mother, who is believed still to be in Afghanistan.
Mr Satiawan said the boy’s case would be expedited ”because his case is special; he is just a kid”.
”We are also trying to locate his mother but this is difficult and may take time. We must do this through his uncle.”