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RELUCTANT RESCUERS – Why asylum seekers are really drowning at sea

September 04 2012

Reluctant RescuersRELUCTANT RESCUERS –  Why asylum seekers are really drowning at sea

Author of Reluctant Rescuers, Tony Kevin, says serious questions need to be asked about the response by Australian Border Protection and Maritime Safety authorities to the latest sinking of an asylum seeker boat, which led to the deaths of up to 100 people.

On Wednesday 29 August 2012 the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) received a distress call from a boat carrying about 160 people at 4.20am AEST and at 5.05am AEST. The boat had engine failure and was taking on water. Minutes after the first phone call, AMSA informed BASARNAS, the Indonesian authority, of the location of the vessel. The Australian border protection system then returned to normal business.

Five hours later, the boat had sunk and an estimated 100 people drowned. The boat was carrying refugees, all Hazaras from Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of the most persecuted minorities in war–torn Afghanistan. Omed, a ten-year-old Afghan, watched his father, uncle and cousin drown in front of him.

So who was responsible for these latest deaths at sea? The asylum seekers? The People Smugglers? The Indonesian Authorities? For answers to these complex questions Tony Kevin says we must look to the law.

The Rescue At Sea Convention, the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, and UN Convention on Law of the Sea all say that every state party to these Conventions has a duty to render assistance when it receives information that persons are in distress at sea and to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of those persons. State parties shall ensure assistance is provided regardless of the nationality or status of a person or the circumstances in which the person is found. This rescue obligation applies anywhere at sea and is not limited to a state party’s own search and rescue region.

AMSA and Customs botched Australia’s search and rescue responsibilities last week. Up to 100 people died needlessly. Many of these people could have been located and saved, had Australia mounted a timely search and rescue response to the distress calls it received early on Wednesday.

For a fully referenced article contact tonykevin@grapevine.com.au


Contact Catherine Zengerer to request an interview catherine@uncannymedia.com.au | 0400 302 062

 Tony Kevin is a former Australian ambassador whose courageous questions in 2002 sparked off the Senate inquiry into the sinking of SIEV X and who later wrote the prizewinning investigative book A Certain Maritime Incident: the sinking of SIEV X.

Full details of the book and how to obtain it are on the dedicated book website www.reluctantrescuers.com



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