We publish, below, a transcript of a letter signed by the 65 asylum-seekers whose boat, which was heading for New Zealand, was intercepted by the Australian Navy and Customs. As is now common knowledge – the story has gone global – the crew of the boat were subsequently bribed by Australian Customs officers to divert their human cargo to Indonesia. The letter by the asylum-seekers reveals precise and more accurate – compared to previous press reports – details of their journey; also how they had been mistreated by the Australian Navy. The names of all 65 are given in the letter: each person has a story to tell and all 65 are now anxious to meet with Australian journalists to explain more of what happened.
Here is an image of the three-page letter from the 65 asylum-seekers.
Here also is an audio interview conducted by a New Zealand journalist with Nazmul Hassan, a Bangladeshi refugee and one of the 65 forced by the Australian navy to go on to Indonesia
The following is transcribed exactly as written. It is very moving to read. It confirms the following:
- The 65 asylum-seekers began their journey on the morning of May 5th
- On May 17th, while still in international waters their boat was intercepted by the Australian navy
- After questioning the asylum-seekers the Australian navy headed off
- On May 22nd the Australian navy intercepte the boat a second time
- The Australian navy then took the asylum-seekers to the Australian coast (not clear if in asylum-seekers’ boat or on the naval ship)
- The asylum-seekers are imprisoned in the naval vessel’s hold until 31 May
- Whilst in the hold, for the first two days none of the asylum-seekers was allowed a change of clothes; also no food was given until they had fully co-operated with the Navy officers.
- The Navy (or Customs) then gave each of the six sailors who had manned the asylum-seekers’ boat $7200 each (approx $A5000).
- The Australian Navy then replaced the asylum-seekers boat with two smaller ones, that had enough fuel for five hours.
- The asylum seekers headed for Indonesia after being instructed to do so by the Australian navy.
- But the fuel on their boats ran out after only one hour.
- The boats made it to some rocks, where it was smashed.
- The asylum-seekers had no choice but to swim for land.
- One and a half hours later the asylum-seekers made it to the shore, where they are helped by local (Indonesian) villagers
- [Villagers immediately gave the asylum-seekers clothes and cooked food for them]
Kindly request for New Zealand Government from Sri Lanka asylum-seekers:
We was trying to get to your country for asylum from (54 Sri Lankan, 10 Bangladesh and 1 Myanmar) as to what we do let you attention.
In our country not safety for our life. Thats why we leave our country for a few months. We stay in Indonesia by asylum-seekers. Then hope you (New Zealand) can give asylum and you can also give a peaceful life for us.
About 05/05/2015 morning we started out journey by boat (65 persons). 12 days we make well travel on internation sea. Then 17/05/2015 evening Australian customs they to stop our journey and they clamber boat. Then they search our GPS/satalite phone maps, GPS points, foods, oils etc.
They confirm we are going to New Zealand. That’s why they give us a notice that “you don’t try to come in Australia and don’t try to use Australian water area also”. After that they will leave our boat.
Then we again our journey for Newzaland without loosing our hope. Again after six days 22/05/2015 evening the Australian customs and navy came back. They take away our captain on their ship and and more six hours secretly they talk with our captain. After finished the meeting that night Navy clamber on our board and they called all asylum-seekers for sitting in front of they called all asylum seekers for sailors cabin. That time strongly training. So we some sick want permission go inside. But they were not allowed in moving well asked them “where you want to take us”. But they didn’t answered. Few days after we reached north Australia then they send us inside navy ship which was like a a gail. Til that (time) day until 31/05/2015 we stay that ship jail.
That time they take our people with photo. In there we don’t have any other dress for change until two days. They didn’t told anything after we make unfood fast for the good answer. Then they told that they give good decission and we also belive their speech. Then we just wait for their good decission but they cheat with us. We never expect that.
Then they [unreadable] our six sailors and donated them by giving at least 7200 (ASU) dollars per person. They never ask to us any opinions and they also never acept our petition.
Then they take away our better boat and give two small boats. That boat had just a little days foods like biscits and chock lats. And they also give very little fuel just 200 litters for 4 to 5 hours journey. Then they [unreadable] our boats and they leave us near Indonesian land. After that our captain drive our boats one hour later one boat fuel finished. We all jump to another small boat. After sailor also escape from the boat we don’t know anything. After that our boat smashed on rock then we don’t have any other ways. We jump over the boat to sea and swim more than 1 and a half hours for reach island. So the village people help us and save our life. They also inform the Indonesian police. Until now we are staying there.
So we expect New Zaland government realize our feeling and give [unreadable] asylum for us. We also hope they give a peaceful life for us!