People smuggler fishermen

Federal authorities, due to mandatory sentencing routinely charge impoverished Indonesian crewmen who crew boats to Australia with offences as people smugglers

– these carry mandatory jail terms of up to 20 years.

In what human rights lawyers consider to be an injustice, more than 150 crewmen face charges that carry penalties as harsh as for murder.

Hence a major reason why the Federal Opposition’s claim that the Labor government is “encouraging” people smuggling, is wrong. “Encouragement” does not equate with mandatory jail sentences of up to 20 years and their livelihood, their fishing boat impounded and destroyed. The minimum sentence for first-time offenders is a five-year jail term with a three-year non-parole period.

Interviews with Indonesian people smugglers have confirmed:

The Indonesian crewmen are usually paid the equivalent of a few hundred dollars in rupiah for steering a boat into Australian waters. They are told Australian authorities will take care of them – even paying them for each day they are detained – before quickly flying them back to Indonesia.

The con is easily sold because for years that was the way Australian authorities treated the crew of illegal Indonesian fishing boats.

And this is still the way that illegal Indonesian fishermen are treated. The main job of the patrol boats out of Cairns and indeed Darwin is not the interception of people smugglers, but illegal fishermen poaching in Australian waters. It is therefore unsurprising that the above illusion has been easy to sell by the people smuggling organisers.

In Indonesia people smuggling laws do not exist, therefore nothing has ever been done to stop embarkations. Some blamed John Howard’s poor relationship with Indonesia as a cause, however Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has likewise been unsuccessful. Indonesia might agree to do “something”, but does nothing.

A recent article provides that there is a legal challenge to the prosecution of people smugglers, this being a test case under the Migration Act.

Legal Aid solicitor Gavin Green has stated that accused people smugglers are arguably entitled to bring asylum seekers here and should be acquitted. ”Under this legislation it is not unlawful to bring people to Australia who have a lawful right of entry.”

That is, should the court finds that the passengers have a lawful right to seek asylum then surely the prosecution must fail. Basically a prima facie act which is illegal becomes lawful should the result be something which is lawful. A comparison might be break and enter. Prima facie this is unlawful, but if the result for example is to rescue someone trapped, then the original act thereby becomes lawful.

There is clearly a lot of money changing hands in Indonesia over the issue of people smuggling with the victims being not only asylum seekers who have a genuine right to seek refugee status in Australia, but the impoverished fishermen/smugglers who received little more than a pittance and yet are facing years in Australian prisons. Ignorance of Australian law is not a plea one might say.

13 comments on “People smuggler fishermen

  1. Min

    I think money is changing hands right up the line to government representatives and I believe it is changing hands in many countries. This is why there will be no outlawing of people smuggling, it brings in cash bribes for the top and income for the bottom.

    In regards to the illegal fishermen, this is a different story. the major education in this area needs ot be with China.

    China has many unusual ground powders in their medicines from many flora and fauna. Before the advent of exports and mass transport the only flora and fauna effected was the local populations.

    Now with over 1 Billion people and the same superstitions, the demand for shark fin, dried manta ray gills, dried seahorse etc etc is relentless, resulting in the decimation of many species worldwide as illegal catches explode in number by families trying to earn more money to become rich, rtather than to simply feed their families.

    China needs to act and educate its citizens now. Ground up Manta Ray Gills that filter plankton from the ocean for food when in a Manta Ray, will not filter a human beings blood when it is a powder mixed with water. yet this is the belief. A Manta Ray has one pup every 5 years the population will become extinct in our own lifetime if this continues.

    This is no longer a cultural issue but an extinction issue for so many species.

  2. Shane, this is where the government’s plan of a regional processing center had to bypass Indonesia..the money going right up the line.

  3. Malaysia is to be overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which is where this differs from Nauru where Human Rights advocates were granted access by the Howard government on only two (from memory) occasions.

    Nauru was never a deterrent except as punitive action again asylum seekers whereas with Malaysia there are already 4,000 people who have already been processed. In this regard I think that it’s ‘fair enough’, that Australia should take the 4,000 processed people.

  4. Min

    The words UN do nothing for me in regards to instilling confidence in any policy or action or outcome.

    Far too many failures and attrocaties over the years under the UN already for my liking.

  5. Like it or not, the majority of Australians are racist, that is why both Labor and the Liberal/National Parties are using HUMAN MISERY as a lever for their own political gains.

  6. Crowey, sadly true in some ways. And yet when we get to know each other Australians can be the most accepting of people. It would be only a small bogan minority who would run down the neighbors just because they were Aboriginal or Muslim..but maybe I’ve been lucky in not having had to deal overly with these sort of creatures.

  7. Min, there are plenty of them around, some are willfully ignorant, some just need a bit of education.

  8. To understand the situation…from an ’09 article from Crikey.

    It is also believed that Indonesian diplomats in places such as Kabul have assisted people smugglers by issuing visas for cash. This situation is further assisted by many immigration officials at smaller exit ports being open to bribery.

    A further complication is that members of the Indonesian military have been involved in protecting the people smuggling trade, intimidating both police and immigration officials. As a result, independent Indonesian action against people smugglers is rarely enforced.

  9. I believe the government needs to bring in the four thousand as quickly as possible.

    It will be criticise but so be it.

    I would like to see the same agreement with Indonesia. Indonesia has many in the same situation.

  10. From the UNHCR:

    In Indonesia, third-country resettlement is usually the only option available to people found to be in need of international protection.

    Over the past five years, the UNHCR has resettled 855 people in third countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

    Australia, New Zealand and Canada are among the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees signatory countries, but Indonesia is not.

    http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/06/21/indonesia-hosting-close-3000-refugees-unhcr.html

    The Indonesian situation is a difficult one with many internally displaced persons of it’s own. There is also some animosity towards Australia due to the turning the boats back policy. Seen from Indonesia’s perspective why should they as a developing nation host the majority of refugees while wealthy Australia quibbles about how few we are prepared to take.

  11. Pingback: Schapelle and fishermen | Café Whispers

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