Democrats seek full inquiry into SIEV-X tragedyThe World Today - Thursday, 9 June , 2005 12:26:00
Reporter: Lisa Millar
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ELEANOR HALL: There are more demands today for a full inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 353 people who were on the Indonesian asylum seeker boat known as the Siev-X, which sank en route to Australia nearly four years ago.
Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett says it's time for the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty to reveal what he knew about Australian plans to disrupt people smuggling activities out of Indonesia.
And the Australian Democrats and refugee advocacy groups say they'll keep pushing for answers even if it takes years.
This report from Lisa Millar.
LISA MILLAR: On a parliamentary delegation in Indonesia, Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett has raised the issue of people smuggling on an informal basis, but when he returns to Australia tonight he'll continue pushing for a formal inquiry into the sinking of the Siev-X.
ANDREW BARTLETT: I think the Siev-X issue is as open as ever and as needing as ever to be investigated. The fact that somebody's been shown to be involved as a people smuggler just reinforces the fact that it was a highly organised activity. I actually went along to a little bit of a trial and heard a small amount of the evidence.
It's quite clear that all of the asylum seekers that survived that spoke… have the same story about strong involvement of a number of Indonesian officials, and quite a sophisticated operation, and the very, very big question remains is how all of that could've happened without any significant Australian awareness.
LISA MILLAR: An Iraqi man, Khaleed Daoed, was found guilty yesterday in Brisbane's Supreme Court for his role in organising the ill-fated journey of the Siev X. It capsized in October 2001; 353 asylum seekers drowned.
Questions have been raised about Australia's involvement in a joint disruption program with Indonesia against illegal vessels. The Senate's Children Overboard Report called for a full independent inquiry, but the Federal Government has refused.
Andrew Bartlett says the conclusion of the trial yesterday only raises more questions.
ANDREW BARTLETT: This trial didn't go in any way to the involvement of Australians, but it did have a number of people give evidence about the extents of involvement of Indonesian officials.
I think we can quite rightly again seek to follow up what the Australian Government, the Australian Federal Police knew about that and how they can possibly say that activities that must've involved a lot of radio communications weren't things that they were aware of.
LISA MILLAR: Sue Hoffman from the West Australian Refugee Alliance is also calling for the Federal Government to now launch a full inquiry, and she says she's prepared for a long wait.
SUE HOFFMAN: It might take years before more comes out, but there is plenty more that needs to be discovered, and this is why so many people are continually pushing for a full inquiry. And there's been three Senate motions after being for a full inquiry into Siev-X.
LISA MILLAR: She's also urging the Federal Government to provide the families of those who drowned onboard the Siev-X with permanent protection visas.
SUE HOFFMAN: Many people probably don't appreciate that some of these men who lost their families on Siev-X, fled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq - they left in 1999. And since that time they've not been able to connect with any of their family members, because temporary protection visas do not allow family reunions.
ELEANOR HALL: Sue Hoffman from the Western Australian Refugee Alliance speaking to Lisa Millar.