McPhedran: The people smuggling dilemma

IMAGINE you are a poor fisherman living in a village on the coast of Java earning maybe $50 a month.

Someone offers you $5000 on behalf of a third party to crew a crowded and barely seaworthy vessel to Christmas Island.

That is almost 10 years’ pay and even if you get three years in an Australian jail you will be well in front upon your return home.

And life in an Australian prison offers more luxuries – such as TV and internet access – than you could ever afford back in the village.

Fast forward to the Federal Court in Sydney this week, where two poor Indonesian fishermen, Kama Bin Jafarudin and Umar Bin Basir, are on trial for smuggling 71 people into Australia on a tiny wooden boat that was so small the passengers couldn’t even get to the sides to go to the toilet.

 The only food on board was bread, water and a few nuts. There were no life vests or life boats.

Each passenger on board had paid about $15,000 to a people smuggler in Indonesia for their 48-hour trip to the land of milk and honey.

That is $1.065 million for a single voyage on a boat worth a few hundred dollars with a crew paid $10,000.

Even after expenses, which would include payments to corrupt Indonesian officials, the profits are enormous.

The two poor Indonesian fishermen told authorities that they had been fishing off the coast of Java when they became lost and somehow ended up 3km off Christmas Island, where a Navy patrol boat picked them up.



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