I went off on my push bike for a couple of days and rode down the west java coast of the Sunda Straits down to the South Coast of Java. Had lots of time to think and pedal and sort out the world. The South Coast of Java is where most of the middle eastern refugees board rickety wooden boats and set out for a new life in Australia. It’s a sad fact of life that most of them don’t make it and probably half perish at sea. Hardly a week goes by without without the newspapers describing their terrible plight. The last one was over the weekend and the Indonesian captain handed the boat over to one of the refugees who could recognize a boat 3 times out of 10 and got off. The vessel capsized in 6m waves not far from shore and the death toll has risen to over 50 already. There were Syrians, Pakistanis, Iranians and probably a few Afgans and Iraqis. Anywhere there is war we have refugees fleeing the conflict and just wanting a life where they won’t get shot for who they are or for what they believe. I remember when the Vietnamese were fleeing in droves in boats down through South East Asia after the war had finished and US collaborators were being rounded up by the Viet Cong.
The obvious solution would be for the Indonesians to get tough and round them up before they leave. How several hundred non Indonesian speaking foreigners can hide out waiting for a boat, arrive in Indonesia, get fed, get moved, hang out, etc etc without someone seeing them is quite astonishing. (What if these people were terrorists?? ) I think this is what the Australians want to see. Keep the problem in Indonesia away from Australian shores. Unfortunately it is not what the Indonesians want. They have enough troubles of their own. From time to time they round up a few through no fault of the police…the bus crashes, the refuges run amok when the boat doesn’t show up or whatever…I mean it is obvious the police would rather look the other way…and it is rather embarrassing. What do you do with 50 refugees? Who is going to pay for their food and board. The police don’t have a budget for this. Most of the refugees don’t carry any paperwork so you can’t send them home if you don’t know where home is. They have tried putting them up in a hotel but the refugees just slip away..they don’t want to be in Indonesia any longer than it takes to jump on a boat.
The closest place in Australia to Indonesia is a small island which is the tip of an underground Volcano called Christmas island. If they can make there then they can join the refugee queue on Nauru.
“Christmas Island is located 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) northwest of Perth, Western Australia, 500 km (310 mi) south of Indonesia, 975 km (606 mi) ENE of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and 2,748 km (1,708 mi) west of Darwin, Northern Territory. Its closest point to the Australian mainland is 1,560 km from the town of Exmouth, Western Australia“
It is way closer to Indonesia than Australia. So what the heck is Australia doing with it anyway? The bird shit (Guano /Phosphate) is gone so it is not much use to anybody anymore. I wonder how much it costs the Australian tax payer to maintain Australia’s presence on the island?
A while back one of the Australian prime ministers tried to maintain that islands off the coast of Australia were not considered part of Australia and that refugees arriving on an island could not claim refugee status in Australia. I don’t remember why but it didn’t work. But it was on the right track. All Australia has to do to dramatically reduce the refugee problem is to cede the islands off Indonesia that it claims sovereignty over, back to Indonesia. Any islands closer to Indonesia than Australia go (back) to Indonesia. Problem solved.
50% of the boats don’t even make it to Christmas island. Very few would get anywhere close to the Aussi mainland. They just don’t carry enough fuel or water to get that far. Since the shooting ban on the salt water crocs has been in force their numbers have increased to become a suitable deterrent to those that do. (mop up crew) if they make it to the mainland…just leave them. They won’t survive very long.
I obviously got too much sun on the ride!!!