Children feared to be on missing boat

Nicola Berkovic and Brendan Nicholson
The Australian
January 19, 2010

MEMBERS of the Afghan community in Brisbane believe women and children were among 105 people on a boat which they fear has sunk after leaving Indonesia for Australia on October 2.

However, a spokesman for Immigration and Acting Home Affairs Minister Chris Evans yesterday said the government was not aware of a boat having sunk in Australian waters.

"If people have information that a boat has sunk, we urge them to contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority," the spokesman said.

Hazara community spokesman Hassan Ghulam, of Brisbane, said he'd been told by detainees on Christmas Island that four families, including children, were on the boat which may have sunk in Indonesian, international or Australian waters.

Mr Ghulam said a 25-year-old Hazara man, Barkat Ali, was believed to be on board the boat and concerns were raised by the man's brother, who lives in Brisbane.

"There are people who are related to these 105 people but they are not coming forward because they are afraid of being accused of encouraging their family to make this journey, but this is truly not the case," he said.

He said checks with the Department of Immigration, and Customs and Border Protection, had revealed nothing.

Meanwhile, the opposition said the government must reveal what it planned to do with five Sri Lankan asylum-seekers on Christmas Island who were declared by ASIO as security risks.

The Australian revealed this month that four of the Tamil refugees picked up by the Customs vessel Oceanic Viking had been issued adverse security assessments, making them ineligible for visas. One of those was a woman who travelled to Australia with her two young children.

Her husband, who travelled to Australia by boat some months ago, was also refused a visa on security grounds.

Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said other countries would be well aware that the four men and a woman now carried that stamp and they'd be reluctant to accept them.

"The simple fact is they will find it exceedingly difficult to settle these people somewhere else now that our security agency has said they are a security threat."

Senator Evans said that the family would not be issued any type of visa. "We're determined that these people be resettled elsewhere," he said.

The government conceded it may take some time to find a third country willing to take the five.

A spokesman for Senator Evans said that to protect Australia, those who received adverse findings would be held on Christmas Island while Australia explored options for their future relocation or they departed voluntarily.


Back to