Friday, 19 August 2022  
How many of the 1500 asylum seeker lives lost at sea since 2001 could have been saved?
Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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Whose Ships Were They?

18 July 2002 (updated 3pm)

Survivor reports of boats at the SIEV X sinking site ~ Tony Kevin

[We asked Tony Kevin to comment on the persistent reports from SIEVX survivors that ships were present at the sinking site but failed to rescue them. This is his reponse.]
I expressed my acceptance these were not our Navy ships in my Senate Committee testimony on 1 May, on the basis solely of prior official assurances that the nearest Australian ship was "Arunta", 150 (or 230) miles away. At that time I did not conceive of any possibility that sworn RAN senior officer testimony during April ( also cited in Hill's letter to Crean) might have been false. So I never asked for the Senate Committee to see ships' logs.

As another example of my perhaps naive trust at the time - I believed Rear Admiral Smith when he said in April testimony that Op Relex did not know of the boat's sailing until informed by Search and Rescue on 22 October that it was overdue. My testimony on 1 May was based on the consequent assumption that intelligence had been withheld from Op Relex by its originators.

The truth was worse than I anticipated. It was only after the May 22 revelations that I understood that official testimony under oath in this enquiry was not necessarily reliable. I now understand that testimony even at the highest level has to be tested and corroborated by others.

Having said that, I still think it unlikely that these were Australian-crewed boats. I still believe our RAN crews would not have taken part in such an atrocity ( or is this my naivete again?). For it is impossible that boats with searchlights that were seen so clearly by survivors in the water, and called and whistled to by the survivors in unison, did not themselves see the survivors - yet did not rescue them.

The more economical scenario is that these were Indonesian police patrol boats - possibly, ironically, the very boats donated to the Indonesian police under Australia's people smuggling disruption program. See my comments on Keelty's vital 11 July testimony on this, in my latest note (forthcoming) on Margo Kingston's Webdiary.

Last Night's Dateline Transcript

  • In October, an asylum seeker vessel sank on its way to Australia - 353 people drowned. Known as SIEV-X - an acronym for `Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X` - the boat and its fate have been the subject of a Senate inquiry. It is trying to determine who knew what about SIEV-X and whether Australia could have rescued the survivors. For months the nation`s most senior military commanders and public servants have tried to answer those questions. Tonight, one former senior Defence official tells Dateline that if the operation had been properly handled, lives may have been saved. In this story, reporter Geoff Parish retraces key parts of the doomed boat`s journey...
    To listen to the program click here
Full People Smuggling Taskforce Minutes Online

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