Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Australia gives asylum-seekers lifeboats to go to India

04 August 2014, 11:51

Sydney - Asylum-seekers held on an Australian customs vessel at sea for weeks were given lifeboats and told to make their own way back to India, a lawyer for the group said on Monday.

The boatload of 157, who lawyer Hugh de Kretser said were mostly Christian Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka, set sail from India hoping to get to Australia.

"The clients we spoke to were absolutely terrified at what lay ahead for them," said de Kretser, who is executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre.

"They were terrified of the prospect of being dumped in the ocean on lifeboats, without experience in navigating or operating a boat and having to take responsibility for the families that were on the boat."

The group, which includes 50 children, were picked up by Australian authorities towards the end of June.

They spent weeks on a customs boat, mostly locked in windowless rooms, before they were taken to Australia around 25 July, their lawyers say.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who claims they are mostly economic migrants, said they could be returned to India - even if not citizens of that country - under an agreement with New Delhi.

But all refused interviews with Indian consular officials on Australian soil and were instead transferred to a detention camp on the Pacific island of Nauru.

De Kretser said that after interviews with 15 of the 107 adults onboard, it appeared nine of them were separated from the others while they were still on the customs vessel and told how to use the lifeboats.

They were instructed in English that there would be 50 to 60 people on each boat and they would have to navigate them back to India.

"When they refused, saying they had no experience in operating or navigating a boat, and couldn't take responsibility for ensuring the safety of those onboard, the officers told them that it was an Australian government decision and they had to obey," he said.

De Kretser claimed access to the group had been extremely limited, but said some told him they had been living in India for less than six months when they made the voyage.

He said they had spoken of a precarious existence in India, where they were unable to work and their children could not attend school, while some had fears about their safety.

"These 157 men, women and children have been subjected to a level of cruelty that has no place in modern Australia," he said.

Under Australia's hard-line policy for asylum-seekers, designed to prevent deaths at sea, those arriving by boat are sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru and denied resettlement in Australia even if found to be genuine refugees.

Canberra also has a policy of turning boats back when it is safe to do so, while asylum-seekers coming ashore in Indonesia have claimed Australian authorities put them on lifeboats and turned them back.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...