Boat after boat

While our politicians fight over the boat people crisis, we present a special Sunday Night investigation from the high seas. Reporter Tim Noonan boarded the boats and spoke to the new wave of illegal immigrants about their Australian dream.

Sunday Night was on board as up to a dozen people evacuated a small cargo hold, measuring little more than 2 metres in length. They’d been turned around by the Sri Lankan Navy.

“How they survived, I have absolutely no idea,” said Noonan as he climbed down into the cramped space.

These people are risking life and limb, crammed into unsafe vessels for the perilous two-week journey to Australia. As Noonan asked one man found in the hold: Don’t they worry about the danger?

“Yes we have worry, but we can’t do nothing. I have no mother and sister – my sister and mother have died in a bomb blast. We are chasing a better life,” he said.

Back on land, Sunday Night visited the small fishing village that’s also one of Sri Lanka’s main hubs for people smuggling. It appears idyllic, but the people here are desperately poor and many of them yearn for a better life in Australia – education, employment, and a future for their children.

“There’s no other way, you know? There’s no other way to go to Australia,” said one Sri Lankan man, who had paid around $8000 Australian dollars to make the journey.

His smugglers promised him a safe, comfortable journey, with no chance of being caught. What he found was a small rickety boat, without enough food to sustain the 50-odd people smuggled on board during the journey.

For every one of the 29 boats to have arrived in Australian waters this year, carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers, many more are turned around and seized by the Sri Lankan Navy. The rush is sparked by fears Australia will soon pass new laws re-introducing off shore processing – so the race is on.

19 August, 2012

Reporter: Tim Noonan
Producer: Paul Raffaele

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