Trip to RI organized by mafia: Survivor
The Jakarta Post
26 October 2001
Bogor -- The dream of a better life had led the migrants from the Middle East to take an extraordinary risk. Tragically, that risk did not pay off and their dream became a nightmare when their boat sank in the Java Sea on Friday.
Over 350 people, mostly Iraqis, died in the tragedy. Two people are in hospital while 42 other survivors are being sheltered at the Wisma Palar in Bogor and the Ragal Villa in Cisarua.
At the Ragal Villa, Amal Hassan, accompanied by her 19-year-old son Amjad Abas, told The Jakarta Post how the two of them became part of the tragedy.
The Iraqi woman said she was in contact with people in Malaysia and Indonesia who claimed they could arrange to bring her to Australia.
"Let me tell you, these people are mafia... but I was desperate to escape the fearful conditions in my country, I thought this might be our way out," Amal said.
She said her husband used the same method two years ago and was now living in an immigration center in Melbourne.
About three months ago, she and her son left Teheran for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and later traveled by boat to Medan in North Sumatra, where their contact had been waiting for them at the port.
They were later taken to the Sahid hotel, where she was immediately greeted by men who claimed to know who she was.
"Later they asked me if I wanted to go to Jakarta where they claimed to also have some 'channels'. The fee for the Jakarta trip was US$100 per person," she explained.
At the Soekarno-Hatta international airport, they were approached by four Arabs who later took them to a shabby hotel, and a few days later they were taken to the Amelia Villa in Cisarua.
"A man named Abo Kossi came to the villa and told us that he could arrange for a trip to Australia for US$1,500 per person. Later I gathered that these people (traffickers) are based here in Cisarua," she said.
"After my friends and I paid, we were transported by a bus one night to a port, I'm not sure where, and we departed by boat to Bandar Lampung."
After arriving there during the evening of the following day, the group of 418 people boarded another vessel, which was supposed to take them to Christmas Island.
"When we saw the condition of the boat, some of us immediately objected to traveling in it because it appeared so old and fragile," she said.
Amal said that Abo and his friends insisted that the boat was in perfect condition and that it would be able to travel safely to Australia.
"When we protested, they told us to either get on the boat or risk having our money lost," she added. They also pointed guns at them, forcing the desperate people to get on board.
Despite her horrific experience, Amal and her son are determined to get to Australia.
"I want to meet my husband there, and I believe in Australia we will find a good life."