To the roomful of Sri Lankan refugees, little has changed for those left behind since they made their perilous voyage in a wooden boat to Christmas Island last year.
Now living in Brisbane, the young Tamil men — granted asylum in the past few months — are adamant that the flow of boatloads of asylum-seekers will never subside because of any decision of the Australian government.
For them, as well as their brothers, sisters, cousins and friends, Kevin Rudd’s suspension of asylum claims made by Sri Lankans and Afghans is meaningless.
They say it is the ongoing persecution of the Tamil minority — acknowledged by the government in granting asylum to each of them — that will fill as many boats that can be organised by the people-smugglers.
“I risked my life in the boat because I would have been killed if I stayed,” one refugee told The Australian. “It is a very dangerous place for Tamils, and nothing has changed since I left, no matter what the Sri Lankan government tells Australia.
“There are young Tamils still being kidnapped and killed, people are scared and they have no access to medicine or education — they have to leave.”
The eight men — aged between 20 and 36 — yesterday spoke to The Australian on the condition of anonymity.
All of them say they lost family in the civil war, which raged for decades until last year, and all know of people in Sri Lanka who still fear for their lives and are planning to make the voyage.
The average price for passage among them was $US15,000 — restricting the exodus to the children of merchants.
One man said it was a small price to pay by his businessman father, who was willing to “sell everything” to ensure his only son lived long enough to give him grandchildren.