HOW DID WE GO TO AUSTRALIA?Written by Ramezan Ali Nassery Malistany
11 January 2004
We 240 Afghan Migrants are living in Indonesia more than one year. During this time we had travelled three to five times to Australia. Unfortunately we could not get there because the boats were crowded, inefficient and mostly were facing the break down which was nearly to cause death toll for passengers but accidentally we were rescued from death danger and remained alive. The passengers were returning back by psychological disappointment and physical illness.
The first time when the boat moved from Surabaya (a city of Indonesia) after three days our boat faced technical problem in Indonesian water that we remained in this boat for five days while having no food and drinking water with us. Days and nights we were rowing the boat in order to pull it to any seaside. Lastly we approached near an Island and we were about to get in that Island but storm was pushing the boat back to the middle of ocean. In this time a fishing boat appeared and wanted to save us but when they saw these much passengers are standing up on our boat the fishermen were frightened and escaped away. We remained with hot sunshine and deficiency of food, water and crying of women and children. It is notable that a day before this event the boat was nearly to be burnt due to carelessness of cooker that suddenly a big fire caught the last part of our boat. A brave passenger dared to catch the burner and throw it into the ocean and extinguished the fire. Finally, a fishing boat appeared and our captain got on that boat skilfully and agreed with them by two million Indonesian Rupiah to pull our boat to seaside. The tired, thirsty, hungry and unfortunate migrants stepped into Poso a part of Bima Island and found themselves among one hundred residents of that small Island. When the local people saw two hundred foreigners they surrounded us while equipped with sickles and knives.
In next time our boat lost the way into Christmas Island and we were perplexed for eighteen days on the ocean having no water and food and the intensity of waves possibly kept our boat turning around itself for five days and boat could not get out of whirlpool. Accidentally we saw a big ship by the name of SURYA is coming. We shook the scarves and hands so it stopped and our boat moved to it. They asked one person to come in their ship and tell them the matter when our boat wanted to move near the big ship our captain could not control the boat and it hit to the ship and all the passengers shouted dreadfully and front part of the boat was completely wrecked but captain could save it skilfully and ship of SURYA had gone away.
In another trip our boat got hole and the boat's engine was broken down in the ocean near to Jawa Island, fortunately it was near to Island and passengers gave light to the fishing boat at that time the generator wasn't able to evacuate the water from the boat and the passengers were evacuating the water from boat by bucket .The fishing boat reached soon and saved the passengers and after some moment our boat drowned in the ocean.
Totally we have experienced from three to five times such deadly events in the way to reach to the land of people who claim themselves the main human rights supporters in the world (we mean Australia).
On 3rd October 2001 in the last time in nine days trip we have lost one baby because of hot weather and having no food and water. And another baby was born in Australian water near Ashmore Reef (at five O'clock in early morning on 12th October 2001). This time due to extreme happiness the tears were coming from the eyes of all passengers because all of us believed that we could finally reached to Australia alive at 2 O'clock of night on 12th October 2001 and the navy forces stopped us at nine O'clock and we thought that it was the end of all calamities of our trip and we forgot all the past days problems which we had during many times travel on the ocean if we calculate all the days of our trip on the water in many times travel it becomes more than two months and half that we were moving on the water.
We believed that now it is the time to explain for the world the clumsy faces of Taliban Militia and international terrorism and sorrowful condition of the oppressed of Afghan nation. Especially most of the passengers are from Hazara tribe who had been the victims of racial and religious discrimination and fanatic policies of all governments in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately it was the beginning of another unexpected tragedy in our life. This is one of the pathetic stories of human's life in history. The navy forces of Australia kept us in the small and smelly boat on the ocean beside Ashmore Reef under the unbearable hot sunshine for eight days. All the passengers infected to skin disease due to much perspiration and dirt in the boat. Australian Navy forces were giving food the only few morsels of half cooked rice to us once a day. Which was not enough for a small child. They also were telling us that we do not have more than this and it is the food of forty staffs of our navy ship that we are bringing for you 240 migrants. There was not enough health service to cure the sick people just they were giving all of us the same tablets to relief the pain and they were telling that we would treat you well in the camp. Especially a woman who gave birth to a child was in need of correct medical treatment and energetic food.
We were asking them that for how long we will stay here and why do not you take us to any Island of Australia. Australian Navy Commanders (Robert and Chad) were replying that "we are waiting for the ship which is coming from Australia and will take you to the camp because your boat is not able to carry you and we are surprised that how these240 people came with this small boat in this long dangerous way". During this time the navy custom came and counted us and noted the number of migrants.
Finally after six days the commandos came in our boat and said that we are taking you to the camp (In fact they just deceived us) so they separated the families from singles first they checked all of them from head to the foot thoroughly and transferred them to their own navy ship.
When they took the families to their ship we asked them where do you take the families they answered that your boat is small and the families are disturbed a lot so we take them in better place till single must be relaxed and families too. Then asked all the singles to come down inside the boat where forty persons were there. We requested them it is not possible for all of 160 persons to come together in a place, which is enough only for 40 persons. They said only for five minutes we want to tell some thing to you. Since they persisted a lot, all the160 passengers came down inside the boat and sat on each other and some people were standing. Suddenly we saw the commandos coming to our boat. It was so much surprising for us that what these commandos came here for? All of them kept guard on upside of the boat and controlled us that we must not come up on the boat. They behaved with us so pitilessly that we have never imagined such character from human for human in our life.
They kept us down by force for two days in such place that the people cannot set and even breathe leave the food and sleep because there was not enough oxygen and as well there was much smoke of engine which was not up to the mark technically. This place had a small window, which was as a ventilator for that. The commandos even did not allow us to look out from that small window and in every five minutes one person was shocking and then he was taken to upside of the boat like a dead body then commandos were pouring water on his face or injecting him to become conscious after that throwing him down in same tight and smelly place. Such event was happening frequently and repeatedly and the commandos were laughing at them. Each person had the chance to go to toilet once in 24 hours who was accompanied by two commandos if any one was a little late they were knocking on the door and shouting that come out! And some people even could not get this chance too, especially on last night they took the ladder by which we were going to upside then to toilet so we remained there which was like a pitfall.
Pouring water on the face of shocked person and taking us to toilet and preventing of people from going upside the boat in order to inspire fresh air, were all activities of more than forty commandos. They behaved so pitilessly that it is not possible to be explained by words or even imagined and you will never know till you have tried. So this condition was not tolerable for us but since we thought that we are going to Australia we underwent all these suffocating condition.
When the families were taken to navy ship they were a little bit happy to go there, they thought that we are going to Australia by navy ship so it is better than this small boat. The commandos attached the tags on each person's hand to know the number of people. When they were taken to navy ship it was worse than our condition that all the families are placed in a small room where there was not any toilet. They cut barrel into half and put it in the corner of room in order to be used as toilet for 80 persons including young men, women and children. At inception it is not so much disturbing but lastly the smell of that barrel had confused all of the passengers, within these two days the families had the same problem regarding food and other behaviour of commandos as singles.
Finally after two days in early morning the commandos' officer shouted: "you are returned back and now you are in Indonesian water." This sentence was like a thunder which hit on the passengers' mind and once we shocked and became perplexed, we asked them if you did not accept us why did not you submit us to UN and why you have deceived us and why. and why ...!!?? But there was no ear to hear! Unfortunately, the commandos instead of logical reason replied us with electrical sticks, which they had with them, after a few minutes we observed that they have taken the families back to our small boat by force. Because no one was ready to come out of the navy ship they were throwing the children like an object in our boat and beating the men, women and children so badly. By observing this scene some of commandos were weeping but their commander was taking them to the captain's room even one of the commandos hit his head to the wall of the boat. They broke down the engine of boat and have taken the oil and generator with themselves They did so till we cannot go back to Australia again and these commandos escaped by speed boat to the navy ship which had brought the families and run away.
Then we remained with broken down engine and having no oil and generator in order to evacuate the water from our boat in the heart of ocean. If after some hours the fishermen of Indonesia were not coming to us 240 passengers were likely were drowning in the ocean.
After all these tragedy we came back to Roti Island of Indonesia and we were taken to a mosque named ALMUHAHIRIN MASJID in Rotie. The local people gave us food as charity to us for three days after that the police of Rotie brought us to Kupang Island where we lived for forty days in police school named SPN (sekolah polisi negara) at which fifty persons stayed in one dirty hall, we did not have sufficient water to take bath or wash our faces and skin disease which originated from travel on the boat was increasing day by day.
After forty days we were taken to an Island named Lombok (Mata ram - Wisma Nusantara (I)) and this is more than thirteen months that we live in the world of ambiguity. We cannot go back to our country because of the very problems (racial and religious discrimination by specific groups), which we had and still we have.
Written by Ramezan Ali Nassery Malistany the teacher of English and computer classes of Afghan Refugees Indonesia
[sievx.com editor's note: Ramezan Ali was also interviewed by Mark Bowling in 2002.