A Boat Called the Janga 1b - A SIEV


A Boat Called The Janga

A pencil drawing of a hand reaching out of the ocean, it grasps the end of a rope that is dangling from the sky, however the rope breaks in the centre. In the background, a boat can be seen sinking in the ocean with birds flying above it. A heart shape floats in the sky and a bird soars upwards in front of it.

[imagecaption] ‘SIEV 221’, Refugee Art Project. Artist: Hadi.  [/imagecaption]


Fifty people, including fifteen children, died in the wreckage of the Janga off the coast of Christmas Island, in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territory, at daybreak on December 15, 2010. Of the ninety-two people on board, only thirty-nine of the Iranian, Iraqi and stateless asylum seekers would survive, along with three Indonesian crew members. 

In official parlance the boat is known as SIEV 221, the two hundred and twenty-first in a sequence of Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels since 2001. Like the numbering of their passengers in the immigration detention system, the numbering of boats is part of the dehumanising of asylum seekers and refugees that is a key feature of Australia’s Border Protection regime.

In defiance of the objectifying seriality which makes each boat part of an interchangeable sequence of suspicion, this case study preserves the original names of wrecked and lost boats wherever possible. We consider each boat in  all its singularity, the bearer of myriad hopes and lives, rather than as a nameless and faceless object of threat. In this sense, every boat is the first boat.

‘SIEV is the Customs Command abbreviation for “Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel.” This label is the first act of regimentation and dehumanisation when an asylum seeker boat arrives in Australian waters. If the vessel has a “real” name, it will not be made public. Instead, Customs gives the boat a nickname with starting letters in alphabetical order: the first boat in a year will have a name starting with “A”, and so on. In addition, Customs as well as Immigration since 2001 tag the boat with the acronym SIEV, followed by a number. SIEV-221 was the 221st boat arriving on our shores since this type of counting began in 2001’.

Tony Kevin


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