Deathscapes

A Boat Called the Janga 1m - Treatment of Survivors

Deathscapes

A place of tragedy and trauma: the treatment of survivors

Mounted on a low concrete plinth is the damaged boat propeller of the SIEV 221. Inscribed on a plaque are the words 'SIEV 221 15 December 2010. We will reflect on this day with sadness. The loss of each person`s life diminishes our own because we are part of humankind. As You Read This Please Remember All Asylum Seekers Who Have Attempted This Treacherous Journey'. Small, smooth stones are scattered around the memorial. The ocean can be seen through a chain-linked fence in the background.

[imagecaption] SIEV 221 Memorial, Christmas Island, 2015. Photo: Renee Schipp. [/imagecaption]

The Janga represents the largest loss of human life in Australian waters during peace time in close to 120 years.

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In the devastating aftermath of the Janga’s wreckage, then Shadow Immigration Minister and current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, commented that the Federal Government and taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for survivors to be flown from Christmas Island, where they were being held in detention, to Sydney, in order to attend the funerals of their loved one . Then Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce likewise opined that the price of compassion is ‘not limitless’. After a public outcry, twenty-one survivors and family members were flown from Christmas Island to attend funerals in Sydney, only to be returned within three days to Christmas Island, a site plagued with traumatic memories for them. The group included orphaned children, such as 8 year-old Seena who had extended family in Sydney. Seena could have remained with his relatives following the traumatic loss he suffered if not for the official determination to demonstrate a relentlessly punitive attitude towards asylum seekers, regardless of age or circumstance.

When they arrived at the local memorial service held for the dead, the Christmas Island community were shocked to see that no survivors were present. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship [DIAC] evidently refused to allow survivors and community members who had assisted in the rescue efforts to meet and share their collective grief (Dimasi, Joint Select Committee Hansard). The mingling of local communities and asylum seekers even in the context of an offical ceremony of mourning was evidently something to be prevented.

Several years later, in 2014, when survivors and family members sued the Australian government for negligence, Prime Minister Scott Morrison derided them as ungrateful and unreasonable and misrepresented their claims (see Ibrahimi & ors v Commonwealth of Australia (No 9) [2017]).

 

 


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