April 14, 2013
An Afghan man whose father was on board an asylum seeker boat that sank en route to Australia has asked for help to find out if he is alive.
Zabihullah Kamal says his 63-year-old father, Abdul Aziz, was on board a boat that is thought to have sunk off the Indonesian coast on Friday morning.
It was one of two boats understood to have disappeared in the area last week, carrying more than 100 passengers between them.
Mr Kamal says a survivor of one of the boat tragedies has contacted him to say he and Mr Aziz were sitting together when the boat got into trouble.
The survivor told Mr Kamal he and others clung to pieces of wreckage for hours until fishermen rescued them.
It is still not known where Mr Aziz is and Indonesian authorities have not begun searching for the boat because they do not have the necessary equipment or accurate coordinates for its position.
On Friday morning, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) alerted Indonesia’s equivalent, Basarnas, that a boat may be sinking close to Java.
But Basarnas says the whereabouts of the boat is not known, so they still have not started searching for any of the 72 passengers thought to have been on board.
Yesterday the situation became more confusing as reports emerged of 14 survivors, but Basarnas knew nothing about them.
Now, Indonesian immigration authorities have admitted they did know about the survivors of the boat sinking.
The immigration office at Palabuhan Ratu on West Java’s south coast says 14 people were detained on Thursday night, but later escaped.
It means that they were from a boat that sank earlier last week.
Indonesian search and rescue says it is unlikely further survivors from either boat will be found.
Looking for safety
Mr Aziz had registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia and was hoping to get to Australia.
Last week he boarded a boat that headed into treacherous seas.
Yesterday Mr Aziz’s Indonesian mobile phone number had been ringing, but by late last night it was not receiving calls.
People smugglers often confiscate phones from their customers before taking them to the coast.
Mr Kamal, who is still in Afghanistan, says he and his family are ethnic Hazaras who are targeted in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan.
He says they are from the central province of Ghaznim, which is under Taliban control.
He says he asked his father to return to Afghanistan, but he refused because his siblings had all been killed there.
So Mr Aziz was trying to get to Australia.
“The only reason was to find a safe place for his children,” his son said.
Mr Kamal’s two brothers and a sister had also fled to Quetta in Pakistan, but he says that is not safe for them either.
“In not more than four months in Quetta, he [Kamal’s father] buried more than 300 Hazaras,” he said.
Mr Kamal says he is hoping that by releasing his father’s photo, someone may be able to help find him.
Indonesian authorities say there have been three-metre seas in the area where the boat is thought to have sunk, and the chances of survival are slim.