Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Collective is, of course, completely right:
Refugee Action Coalition coordinator Ian Rintoul said Australia’s decision to criminalise people smuggling had played a role in the tragedy.
“Australia’s push for Indonesia to detain asylum seekers and to criminalise people smuggling directly leads to the kind of tragedy we’ve seen yet again,” he said. “If the government is worried about people losing their lives at sea, they should decriminalise people smuggling so that the voyages can be planned in open and seaworthy boats.
“The policy of detaining asylum seekers in Indonesia means [they] risk imprisonment if they contact authorities if they are concerned about the seaworthiness of any boat.”
Very true, and one more reason why those who feign concern for the safety of refugees on boats but whose solution is leaving them in danger in Indonesia and making sure that the system encourages the running of disposable boats and incompetent, disposable crews, are utter liars.
George Newhouse, of Shine Lawyers, who is acting for the survivors of the SIEV 221 tragedy, said the heavy penalties for people smugglers meant smugglers often hired untrained “stooges”, many of them children, who had no idea what they were doing.
“To make matters worse, the government’s policy of confiscating boats means the vessels which are used to transport asylum seekers are often unseaworthy – with disastrous results,” he said.
“Just a year ago we saw the worst Australian shipping disaster in living memory when the engine broke down on SIEV 221 and the young unskilled crew had no idea what they were doing or where they were going.
There is only one way to save those lives, and treating the refugees who arrive here even more cruelly is clearly not it. The way to save those lives is to make sure the boats are seaworthy, and that means not pretending that “people smuggling” is some kind of crime. It means destroying dangerous boats and prosecuting those who run them, but returning the boats and crews who run safe boats.
There’s precisely no other solution that will save those lives. Leaving people who are so desperate to flee in the dangerous location from which they’re fleeing is certainly not it.
UPDATE: had inadvertently left out link to earlier post on this subject. Fixed.