****update from Refugee Action Collective: it now seems entirely possible that 3 asylum seekers did not die, but we still do not know for sure. Paul Toohey from News Ltd who wrote the original article has not responded to our inquiries. Michael Bachelard from Fairfax who also wrote stories on this incident got back to us on 03/02/2014 and told us
I checked the death in the river claims and, from someone who was aboard the boat, had a simple reply “No”. From another guy in Cisarua I had this reply: “orange boat no no die ti cross the river. no micheal its not true i also meet the peoples bangal iran pakistan its wrong news”.
A report on news.com.au yesterday revealed asylum seekers including children and teenagers were physically shoved inside an Australian Navy lifeboat and escorted back to Indonesian waters by Border Protection Command who then abandoned them. The boat came ashore at a sparsely inhabited jungle reserve.
Three asylum seekers are reported to have died “while crossing a river in the jungle” in their attempt to seek assistance after coming ashore.
“These asylum seekers would not have died if their boat had not been turned back. Their blood is on Abbott’s hands,” said Chris Breen for the Refugee Action Collective
“Turning back boats “when safe to do so”, clearly does not include the safety of refugee lives, after Border Protection Command abandons them at sea.
“There is always a risk that turned back boats will end up far from any settlement and have to cross dangerous jungle territory, with little food or water in order to seek assistance. Tragically refugee advocates have long warned turning back boats would risk lives. Five asylum seekers died during attempts to tow back the boats under Howard. More will die if Abbott persists with this dangerous policy that carries such a callous disregard for human life.”
“The deaths come on top of credible reports of Navy using pepper spray against asylum seekers, and causing burns to their hands. Morrison’s refusal to release footage of the incidents, speaks volumes about the likely truth of the claims.”
“The Navy should not be waging war against defenceless, vulnerable people seeking our help. The Refugee Action Collective believes that orders that put civilian life at risk are unlawful, and calls on Navy personnel to disregard such orders if they believe they will endanger human life.
“It was resistance among naval ranks to reckless, life-threatening orders under the Howard government that prevented the loss of even more lives at sea. Three lives lost because of Abbott’s tow-back policy is three too many,” said Breen.
for further comment contact Chris Breen 0403 013 183
for the Refugee Action Collective
Update 03/02/2014: Michael Bachelard from Fairfax Media has claimed that his sources say that there were no deaths https://twitter.com/mbachelard/status/429900794003869696. We have contacted Paul Toohey from News for more info on his source, and if he stands by his story. We will update more prominently when we have more info – Chris Breen