MEDIA RELEASE – Three asylum seekers dead after boat turn back – Abbott has blood on his hands

****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”. 

Our best guess is now that this was a reporting error. It may be that the deaths have not occurred and Paul Toohey is embarrassed at having made a mistake, our media released was based on his original article.  In any case it is disturbing that an account of 3 deaths can be published in the mainstream press, without follow up from any other media if it was correct, or without correction it was wrong. – Chris Breen
RAC original media release:


A report on 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 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

5 thoughts on “MEDIA RELEASE – Three asylum seekers dead after boat turn back – Abbott has blood on his hands

  1. This beggars belief – not belief that it happened, but that the Australian people are so pathetic and callous to support this – and they DO.. I saw the article on the Herald Scum website and posted a few comments – but oh, reading the vile, evil thoughts of my fellow Australians was sickening.

    1. the current government does not represent most Australians , they gained power through lies and deception , it does beggar belief who our navy can even consider turning back innocent refugees , they know full well these people have next to no chance of survival if they are left stranded , Please don’t dump us all in the same basket Rebecca Smith , most of us are good people and the ones you see are usually the one who support the current gov, it is a disaster to hear that these people have died

  2. “Oh the darn ABC at it again.. undermining the government and Australian military.. how DARE they..!!” – (Typical IDIOT Abbot voter)

    1. Hi Hh, the figure of 1000+ includes those who drowned under the Howard government as well as the previous Labor Government, particularly on the SIEV X in which 353 people lost their lives – mostly women and children with no other way to reunite with their families other than to come by boat because of the Howard governments Temporary Protection Visas (Abbott has now effectively cut family reunion for refugees again). This is just one way in which government policy was responsible for those 1000+ deaths at sea, others include criminalising people smuggling which means boats are unseaworthy and crewed by inexperienced crew, worst perhaps has been the pattern of slow response time and time again the response to distress calls – the refusal of Border Protection Command to make rescuing asylum seekers lives as more of a priority than border protection. For more info see our fact sheet on deaths at sea – The government doesn’t give a damn about deaths at sea other than as cover for their cruel policies. Ultimately every single one of those lives lost could have been saved if Australia would take the refugees from Indonesia (the one recommendation of the Expert Panel that Gillard ignored was to increase the refugee intake from the region – to give people safe alternative to boat journeys).

      ps Refugees stuck in limbo in Indonesia, with no prospect of ever working, sending their kids to school or getting health care have the right to risk the journey (98% of boats make it safely) … by the way over 1000 people die each year on Australia’s roads, and the response of politicians isn’t to try and stop people driving, it’s to make the journey safer (though sadly that doesn’t extend to expanding public transport)

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