Australia’s desire to shame Tamils refugees

Two young journalists have produced a remarkable ABC radio documentary about the Australian government’s behaviour towards Tamil asylum seekers in the last 12 months:

In October 2009 a boatload of asylum seekers were rescued by an Australian customs vessel the Oceanic Viking. The 78 were brought to Indonesia to be sent to Tanjung Pinang detention centre but the people refused to get off the boat. What followed was a month-long siege and international headlines. Over the last eight months John Connell and Paul Farrell have tracked down some of the people to find out what happened to them on the boat and afterwards.

ABC featured a small news story about these revelations a few days ago but it only touched the surface, not least the acceptance by Australia of a handful of Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for Washington taking some of “our” Tamils.

This is a tale of lies and secrecy, paranoid officials and scared refugees. To think that Australia can’t provide safe haven for a handful of people fleeing persecution is both absurd and shameful.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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