Six more boats on the way as Kevin Rudd strengthens attack on crime syndicates

Paul Maley & Amanda O’Brien; 15/10/09; (3 Items)

Australian authorities are tracking about six asylum boats suspected to be on their way to Australia after the federal government revealed that organised-crime syndicates were responsible for the “vast majority” of boats reaching Australia. As Kevin Rudd renewed his attack on “vile” people-smugglers, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said the government must reconsider introducing the so-called “Pacific Solution” if it hoped to deter new arrivals. But speaking in Adelaide, Mr Rudd emphasised regional co-operation as the key to eliminating the “scourge” of people-smugglers, who he said represented the “vilest form of people on the planet”. Mr Rudd’s tough rhetoric came as Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor told The Australian the flow of boats could slow if Australian and regional authorities could disrupt some of the criminal syndicates at the heart of it. Mr O’Connor said most of the 1704 boatpeople to arrive this year had been ferried to Australia via organised gangs, rather than opportunistic fisherman or freelance operators.

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Tamil boat people fleeing ‘genocide’
Tom Allard; 15/10/09
Distraught Sri Lankan asylum seekers said they were fleeing ”genocide” against ethnic Tamils in their country, and expressed shock that the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had personally intervened to interrupt their journey to Australian shores. Their barely seaworthy boat is moored next to an Indonesian navy vessel in Merak, and more than 250 people are in a stand-off with Indonesian authorities, refusing to disembark despite the pleading of local navy personnel and a visit from officials from the International Organisation for Migration. The boat was intercepted in the early hours of Sunday, prompting some of the asylum seekers to threaten to blow up the boat with gas canisters used for cooking, while others jumped overboard to avoid being detained.

Ashmore Reef survivors say thanks
Debbie Guest; 15/10/09
Embracing a new world of freedom yesterday after six months of detention and hospital, 16-year-old Reza Amini could not thank the Australian government enough. “I’m very thankful; I don’t have the words to say how much I want to thank the government and the people who helped us,” he said. Mr Amini was one of 42 mainly Afghan men who survived the boat explosion near Ashmore Reef and were released into the community yesterday after being granted protection visas. The men had been in detention facilities in Perth and Brisbane and will settle in cities around Australia, but mostly in Adelaide and Melbourne. Mr Amini said the government had saved him from persecution by the Taliban, who had put his life at risk in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni Province: “We have big problems in Afghanistan with the Taliban; my life was in danger. I came here in the hope of a new life.”