Ahoy! A Ship! A Ship! The BOATS in the asylum-seeker brouhaha

Michael Roberts[i]

Amidst all the convenient statistics bandied around by all political parties, including “victim agencies”, there is an absence of a critical social science breakdown.[ii] Since boats depart from four main regions one requires a statistical breakdown that separate source of origin and proportion that floundered according to source of origin for the following periods, say (I) 2001-07; (II) 2008-2012;  (III) 2013 thus far.

A = Indonesia

B = Sri Lanka

C = India

D= Malaysia


  1. How many made it safely from each source?
  2. How many (a) floundered and from within this lot (b) how many were deliberately sabotaged?

athika gitaanggun on boat aground Pic by Athika Gitaanggun

My intention is to test my speculation that the majority of boat disasters have been among boats from Indonesia though there are also allegations of this sort from Sri Lankan refugees departing from southern India.

While there is a current of red-neck thinking driving the commentary against a-seekers, I also sense a certain measure of Orientalism in Aussie outpourings which see Asia as a source of ‘leaky wooden boats” and incapable mariners and callous folk.

As far as I know the marine boat building technology in Sri Lanka is pretty good and trawlers have GPS and fish regularly off the north western coast of Australia as well as around the Seychelles, Mauritius etc. Of course, people smugglers may not use the best boats because they are write-offs and they may overcrowd them. However the statistics are essential for any meaningful discussion of this topic.

I can understand refugee spokesmen and politicians occluding this issue [though this does not excuse them]. What I cannot comprehend is HOW investigative reporters have not used their know-how and access to “freedom of information” to decipher these vital statistics if the Aussie authorities hide them [for God knows what reason].

gERALDTON A=S -BOAT the Deutsche Bank from Sri Lanka reached Geraldton in Western Australia

fishing boat

****                             *****

Fernando, Manjula 2010 Mahesh Pushpakumara: the saga of the marooned fisherman,” 20 November 2010, http://thuppahis.com/2010/11/20/mahesh-pushpakumara-the-saga-of-the-marooned-fisherman/

Roberts, Michael

—-2009a “Tamil Migration within and beyond Sri Lanka,” 5 October 2009, http://thuppahis.com/2009/12/05/tamil-migration-within-and-beyond-sri-lanka/

—-2009b “Taken in by Tamil Tall Tales,” 4 Nov 2009, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/taken-in-by-tamil-tall-tales/story-e6frg6zo-1225794053578

—-2009c “Adjutant Australia: Controlling Boat People,” 7 Nov 2009, http://groundviews.org/2009/11/07/adjutant-australia-controlling-boat-people/

—-2009d “Crude reasoning,” 17 November 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2736651.htm

—-2009e “Speaking from Ignorance: Australians on Sri Lanka & Its Boat People,” 4 December 2009, http://thuppahis.com/2009/12/04/speaking-from-ignorance-australians-on-sri-lanka-its-boat-people/

—-2009f “Alex’ Kuhendrarajah and the Australian media,” 20 January 2010, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2010/01/20/%E2%80%98alex%E2%80%99-kuhendrarajah-and-the-australian-media/

—-2010a “Boat People as Blanket Categories,” 19 April 2010, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2010/04/19/boat-people-as-blanket-categories/8

—-2010b “Aussies swallow Lies and Rajapaksas miss a Trick,” 31 Oct. 2010, http://thuppahis.com/2010/10/31/aussies-swallow-lies-rajapakses-miss-a-trick/

—-2010c “From “Leaky Wooden Boats” to the Imbecile Asian,” 27 December 2010 = http://thuppahis.com/2010/12/27/from-%E2%80%9Cleaky-wooden-boats%E2%80%9D-to-the-imbecile-asian-2/

—-2010d “Missing the Boat: Australians at Sea on Asylum-Seekers,” 19 October 2011, http://thuppahis.com/2011/10/19/missing-the-boat-australians-at-sea-on-asylum-seekers/

—-2010e “Mahesh Pushpakumara: the saga of the marooned fisherman,” 20 November 2010, http://thuppahis.com/2010/11/20/mahesh-pushpakumara-the-saga-of-the-marooned-fisherman/

2012 “Boat People to Australia: A Comment on The Social Architects’ Survey and Twist on the Tale,” 24 July 2012, http://thuppahis.com/2012/07/24/boat-people-to-australia-a-comment-on-the-social-architects-survey-and-twist-on-the-tale/.

—- 2012 “Australian Gullibility: forgeries, lies and manipulation in the netherworld of in-migration,” 26 July 2012,http://thuppahis.com/2012/07/26/australian-gullibility-forgeries-lies-and-manipulation-in-the-netherworld-of-in-migration/

—- 2012 “Amanda Hodge adds twist to Dayan Anthony’s tale,” 28 July 2012,http://thuppahis.com/2012/07/28/6405/

Wickramasinghe, Kamal 2013 “Bogus refugees are making waves in Australia,” http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/bogus-refugees-are-making-waves-australia

[i] This note was written in an irritated frame of mind after seeing a Q and A session chaired by Tony Jones one night and then listening the next morning to Abbott and other politicians pontificating about asylum-seeking policy and how to protect Australia ina context of speech-making addressing another boating disaster with all its news sensationalism.. Not one person referred to a major factor promoting the flow of irregular migrants –namely the ever-increasing flow of remittances, life stories and other encouragements from relatives and friends who have settled in western countries through regular paths, family reunion or irregular routes. Since the numbers of such migrants have been snowballing it follows that these flows will also be multiplying. There is a powerful set of PULL factors at work. However, this article is aimed at another arena arising from the recent boating tragedy off Java: the detailed data about numbers of boats that have sunk through engine or navigational failures (as distinct for deliberate sinking when in sight of a ship/land). The near unanimity about the perilous character of journeys from different parts of Asia and the conviction that most boats are “leaky wooden boats” needs testing rom empirical data on the number of boats that reached Australian shores safely and details of their point of origin and sturdiness. That the government shrouds all this in secrecy does not help. BUT few reporters seem interested in questioning these convictions.

[ii] SO this little memorandum is a question-raising exercise asking those with some know-how to provide pertinent information. Indeed, it was circulated to friends and some media personnel earlier on Thursday 25th july and it is on second thoughts that I have inserted it as an article –prompted by another furious essay targeting journalistic shortcomings on the Sri Lankan situation.

ABO boat person PLUS “Testing Times for Australia,” http://cricketique.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/testing-times-for-australia/


Filed under accountability, asylum-seekers, Australian culture, australian media, cultural transmission, disparagement, historical interpretation, immigration, life stories, politIcal discourse, racist thinking, Tamil migration

2 responses to “Ahoy! A Ship! A Ship! The BOATS in the asylum-seeker brouhaha

  1. Pingback: Lost and at sea: the asylum-seeker debate in Australia | Thuppahi's Blog

  2. Pingback: South Asia Masala » Lost and at sea: the asylum-seeker debate in Australia

Leave a Reply