April 19, 2013
By Habib Manavi – edited by our staff
Another tragic incident happened in Indonesian Waters on April 11, 2013. There were almost 72 people on board on the boat – all ethnic Hazaras from war-torn Afghanistan. Only fourteen of them managed to escape the likely death after being rescued by fishermen, the rest are unknown to this date and most likely have fallen prey to the evil of sea and the reluctance of rescue agencies. BASARNAS – the Indonesian rescue agency had not only been informed by their counterpart in Australia but also by the survivors who had been captured by Immigration authorities once their foot touched the shores but an immediate search and rescue response did not take place, why? no one has the answer.
According to survived asylum seeker the boat capsized on Thursday at around 12 noon after nearly 10 hours of resistance against the rough waves. The Fourteen fortunate souls had gripped themselves to boat wreckage which eventually saved their lives whilst others were floating on the water and by evening had gone out of sight. There wasn’t any tool or water safety kits which could have helped them in resisting the waves. They had nothing with them and their phones were being confiscated once they boarded the boat.
The unexpected help came after 24 hours, not from a rescue agency but some fishermen agreed to transport them to the nearest shore only if they pay $100 each to them.The fishermen handed these survivors to the local police station which arose the hope that they would be helped and measures would be taken to rescue the rest left at the sea but unfortunately none happened. Their belongings and money, they had with them in their little stitched pockets, were taken – steal is good word, by the Indonesian Police and in return they were told they could flee.
The ill-fated asylum seekers after being looted by police reached Bogor and approached International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) to get some sort of help from them but were refused straight away.
“We thought, IOM will help us and admit us to hospital as we were very sick, our face had burned down and infected, but surprisingly even looking at our obvious physical sickness, they (IOM) refused to provide any medical assistance” summarized a survivor in his own words.
This boat tragedy once again question marks the capability and ability of Indonesian rescue agencies who receive fund and logistic support from Australian counterpart. Despite knowing the fact that there was a distressed boat, BASARNAS, did not bother to send its team for rescue and search of the area. This apathy and irresponsibility utterly demonstrates the very indifference attitude of the authorities towards asylum seekers.
At present, the fourteen survivors are in Cisarua, Bogor – terrified, mentally paralyzed and also frightened that the smuggler may harm them for revealing their names to media. If they don’t receive any humanitarian assistance from the concerned organizations, they might again put themselves in waters.
Habib’s own story of survival can be read here: https://hazaraasylumseekers.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/sole-survivor-of-boat-tragedy-habib-writes-his-memoirs/