Iraqi faces court over boat deaths
By CNN's Grant Holloway
Friday, November 7, 2003 Posted: 0509 GMT ( 1:09 PM HKT)

Photo Caption: File picture showing Iraqi boys in Jakarta mourning the loss of relatives aboard the SIEV-X [sic].

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- An alleged people smuggler believed responsible for a sea voyage that ended in the death of 353 people has been extradited to Australia to face charges.

Khaleed Shnayf Daoed -- an Iraqi citizen -- arrived in the northern city of Brisbane on Friday following a decision by the Swedish government to extradite him, Australia's Minister for Justice, Chris Ellison, said.

Daoed is alleged to have played an important role in organizing a people smuggling operation using a vessel known as the 'SIEV-X' which sank in October 2001 in Indonesian waters during its voyage to Australia killing over 350 people on board.

SIEV-X stands for "suspected illegal entry vessel -- unknown". The overloaded boat was carrying asylum-seekers mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Daoed faces 12 charges under Australia's Migration Act and if found guilty could face up to 20 years in jail.

"Daoed's extradition is particularly welcome given his alleged role in the SIEV-X tragedy and the Australian government is grateful for the cooperation shown by the Swedish authorities in this matter," Ellison said Friday.

The sinking of the SIEV-X prompted an inquiry in Australia's upper house of parliament, the Senate, to examine whether the government knew about the boat and failed to act to prevent the tragedy.

The Senate committee found no grounds for believing there was any dereliction of duty committed by Australian agencies but also said it was disturbing that no review of the SIEV-X episode was conducted in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The inquiry also found it "extraordinary that a major human disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theater of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event, without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision-making circles".

The conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard enacted tough border protection policies two years ago to stem a flow of asylum seekers arriving by boats organized by people-smuggling networks.

The policy has been a success with just two boats arriving since the crackdown began in August 2001. Before that at least one boatload of asylum seekers was arriving in Australia each month.

The most recent boat arrived on Tuesday, carrying 14 suspected asylum seekers of Turkish Kurd origin.

The arrival prompted the government to rush through legislation to exclude around 3000 islands from its migration zone denying the asylum seekers the automatic right to seek refugee protection status in Australia. (Canberra defends border stance)

The legislation is likely to be overturned however by the opposition parties in the Senate where the government does not control a majority of seats.


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