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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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MEDIA

GOVERNMENT
Uncommon Discourtesy

by Marg Hutton
14 October 2005

Update: On 20 October I received a reply from Senator Ellison.

Five months ago, I wrote a brief piece regarding the organiser of the SIEVX voyage, Abu Quassey and the charges he faced in Cairo and whether it would be possible for him to be brought to Australia at the end of his Egyptian sentence to face charges for three earlier people smuggling voyages he allegedly organised.

The day after I published this piece I wrote a letter to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison (sent by post) seeking answers and clarification to some of the questions raised in this article (see copy of my letter below).

I have since followed up with another two letters to the Minister (posted on 9 August and 21 September) and four phonecalls (7 September or thereabouts, 21 September, 7 October and 13 October) and am still awaiting a reply.

Five months seems an extraordinary length of time to wait for correspondence to be acknowledged - especially given all the follow-up listed above.

While I recognise that it may take some time for the Minister's office to research and formulate answers to my questions, it seems very odd indeed not to have received even an acknowledgement of any of this correspondence.

I am also waiting on a reply from the Minister to a letter that I sent concerning another SIEVX-related matter on 21 June - the Minister's reference in a press release in June to SIEVX having foundered in 'international waters'. (For more on this issue see here.)

It appears that SIEVX related correspondence is being filed in the Minister's 'too hard' or 'old news' tray...

 

[address deleted]

13 May 2005

Senator The Hon. Chris Ellison
Minister for Justice and Customs
Parliament House
Canberra 2600

Re: Abu Quassey and 3 outstanding warrants issued for his arrest

Dear Minister,

I am writing with regard to Abu Quassey, the notorious people smuggler who was responsible for the SIEVX disaster in which 353 people (mostly women and children) lost their lives when the boat foundered in international waters in October 2001. Quassey was prosecuted in Cairo in 2003 and sentenced to seven years jail which was later reduced to five years and three months on appeal.

I would like to know the exact details of the offences with which Quassey was charged in Egypt. From media reports I have gathered that he was charged with at least two separate offences:

  • causing death through negligence
  • aiding and abetting the entry of aliens without effective travel documents

Can you confirm that these are all the offences for which Quassey was charged?

I would also like to know what is the maximum sentence that an Egyptian court can impose for each of these offences?

With regard to the people-smuggling charge that Quassey faced in Egypt - was this specifically in relation to the SIEVX voyage or did it encompass other, earlier people-smuggling voyages that Quassey allegedly organised in Indonesia? In particular, I would like to know if Quassey was charged and convicted in Egypt of organising the voyages of the Donnybrook, Gelantipy and Yambuk?

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Keelty stated in Answer #55 to Questions on Notice asked in Senate Legal & Constitutional Estimates on 20 November 2002:

On 3 June 2002, three first instance warrants for the arrest of Abu Quassey were sworn by the AFP with respect to three suspect illegal entrant vessels (SIEVs) known as the Donnybrook, Gelantipy and the Yambuk. The warrants allege three offences of organising the bringing of groups of unlawful non-citizens into Australia and seventy-two offences of bringing unlawful non-citizens into Australia, contrary to the provisions of sections 232A and 233(1)(a) of the Migration Act 1958 (the Act), respectively.
I am not satisfied that Quassey's punishment is commensurate with his crime. I don't believe that serving a few days in prison for every life lost on SIEVX can be considered justice. The maxim that justice should not only be done, but seen to be done was never truer than in the case of Quassey.

I would like to know if Australia is intending to pursue Quassey at the completion of his Egyptian sentence and bring him to Australia to face charges for the three earlier people smuggling voyages he organised prior to SIEVX, detailed above.

If Quassey was not charged in Egypt in relation to these offences then it would seem that there is no legal impediment preventing him facing court in Australia.

Yours sincerely,

Marg Hutton

 

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