Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Australia defends leaving bodies in ocean

11 June 2013, 14:07

Sydney - Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday defended her government's decision to leave the bodies of drowned asylum-seekers in the ocean following criticism that more would have been done had they been Australians.

An extensive three-day air and sea search for an asylum-seeker boat, which is presumed to have capsized near Christmas Island with at least 55 people on board last week, failed to find any survivors.

Up to 13 bodies were spotted in the water, along with debris and life-jackets, but they were not recovered while the hunt for survivors was on and customs officials said on Monday they were now too busy rescuing other boats.

"That is a very tough decision but it is an operational decision," Gillard told reporters.

"As border command has made clear, they always put the highest priority on saving lives and I think we would all understand why that's got to come first in any tasking or any work that border command does."

Australia's Tamil community criticised the move, saying there would be anger if the bodies of Australian victims were left in the remote waters off the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island.

'Dreadful tragedy'

"If they were Australians I am sure that I would be angry," Bala Vigneswaran, executive officer of the Australian Tamil Congress, told the ABC.

"I'm sure that everybody here in Australia would be very disappointed and I don't think we would have treated Australians like this."

Asked about this criticism, Gillard said Australia would "always put the highest priority on saving lives".

The doomed vessel was one of several arriving over the past week, with seven boats carrying a total of about 500 people intercepted since on Wednesday, including one carrying more than 90 people which sought assistance near Christmas Island.

"We have seen yet another dreadful tragedy, considerable loss of life," Gillard said of the latest sinking.

"I think it breaks everybody's heart to see that loss of life, which is why we send the message very clearly; do not risk your life, do not risk your children's lives, do not get on a boat."

Hundreds of asylum-seekers, many fleeing Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka, have drowned en route to Australia in recent years. The boats they take from transit hubs in places such as Indonesia are often overcrowded and unseaworthy.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Eugene Odanga
WATCH: Kaka Sungura arrested in t...

Was Kaka Sungura arrested in town?

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Confused Jubilee afraid of me, Ki...

The Jubilee Party is afraid of me, Evans Kidero says. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Sonko ready for Peter Kenneth bat...

Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko says that he is ready to take on Peter Kenneth in Nairobi Gubernatorial nominations come 2017. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Uhuru wants change in Constitutio...

The Jubilee Coalition is planning to change the Constitution and add President Uhuru Kenyatta another term, Kalonzo Musyoka claims. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
CORD to stop Jubilee efforts to r...

The CORD Coalition will not allow plans to remove Kenya from the Rome Statutes take place, it has said. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
How long will it take Kenya to le...

Kenya is looking to leave the ICC. But what is the process behind the exit? Read more...