Adrift on the high seas without food or water for a month, the bodies of scores of starved asylum seekers who had been trying to reach Australia were thrown overboard from a ‘ship from hell'.
Their starving and dehydrated companions, almost too weak to lift the dead from the disabled vessel as it drifted in the Indian Ocean, were rescued by the Sri Lanka navy – but several were today struggling for life after being brought ashore.
Only 32 of the original 130 Burmese on board were alive when naval ships reached them, many of the emaciated passengers too weak to stand.
Describing the vessel as a ‘ship from hell’, a Sri Lankan government spokesman said the group had set out from Burma two months ago to sail to Indonesia and then on to Australia, where they planned to ask for asylum.
But a few days later the vessel broke down and began what for most of those on board was to prove to be a fatal drift with the ocean currents.
They had set out with enough food and water to last for a month, but when no rescue came and their supplies ran out, the passengers began to collapse with hunger and dehydration as the days and weeks went by.
When they began dying and the stifling conditions under the tropical sun made living with the dead intolerable, their fitter companions had no other choice but to throw the bodies overboard.
The survivors told the Sri Lankan authorities, who found the boat drifting 380 miles off the country’s eastern coast, that they were Muslims from a border village lying between Burma and Bangladesh.
‘Their captain and 97 others have died due to deydration and starvation,’ said Sri Lankan police spokesman Mr Prishantha Jayakody.
‘They said they had thrown the dead bodies into the sea.’
Australia’s Immigration Minister, Brendan O’Connor, who has received a briefing from the Sri Lankan authorities, said the tragedy underlined the danger of getting on people smugglers’ boats and making the perilous journey to Australia.
‘It is the people smugglers who have lured people onto unseaworthy vessels,’ he told Fairfax Radio today.
‘It’s the people smugglers who peddle lies to these people, take their life savings, sometimes sadly take their lives. That’s where I target the blame.’
Mr O’Connor, who took the immigration role only earlier this month, added: ‘A lot of people are just disappearing, out of sight, out of mind. Boats disappearing – it’s very hard to put a number on it. Too many.’
Mr O’Connor said stopping boats carrying desperate asylum seekers could not be done quickly.
Under the previous Liberal government of John Howard the number of boats heading to Australia was just a trickle because word had got out among people smugglers that the vessels would be turned away from Australian waters and those on board would be sent to other nations for processing.
But under the Labour government, elected in November 2007 and headed today by British-born Prime Minister Julia Gillard, more than 33,000 people have arrived by boat on Australia’s outlying islands.
Mr O’Connor said boat arrivals were a ‘constant pressure’ for successive governments. ‘This cannot be done overnight. It can only be done over time,’ he said. - Mail Online
Why does this happen? Why do asylum seekers exist? Why does discrimination happen? Why does poverty exist? Why do we so easily accept and allow abuse? Why do we allow war? Why do we allow corruption? Why do we allow incompetence? Why do we allow deforestation? Why do we allow exploitation? Why do we allow domestic violence? Why do we allow drinking and driving? Why do we allow child soldiers?
The answer to each of these questions is, either directly or indirectly, related to money.
I don't want to lose my money
I don't want to risk losing my money by changing the system
My life is stable, why should I risk that
It would really be inconvenient to find and implement a solution
I don't like economic inequality, but I like my position too much to give it up
It would cost too much
No one else will want to give up their money
I don't have enough money to effect a change
My money gives me freedom
Essentially, all the reasons also involve the almighty "I", which is the major contributing factor. We just don't want to give up what we apparently have. This is the real reason why the world is still in shambles: we don't want to let go of our precious safety nets. We know that real change would mean real change - the world and our lives would never be the same - this is simply too far out of bounds for us. There is no guarantee that the change that comes will be any more comfortable than the lives we have now, so why risk it? Yeah, there's all the rape, torture, abuse, wars, poverty and whatever - but I am not responsible for all that, I just need to look out for myself - that's the best I can do.