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An Oceanic Grave for Migrants

by HAMIDREZA BOHLOULI

21 Dec 2010 00:407 Comments

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Christmas Island tragedy garners little attention.

[ comment ] For most, the headline was all of the story that they ever learned: "100 Asylum Seekers on Boat Wrecked at Christmas Island Were Iraqis and Iranians." The tragedy in the Indian Ocean last Wednesday received little coverage in the international media. Iranians in particular remained indifferent. Neither the Islamic Republic's state-controlled media nor the Iranian human rights whistleblowers paid much attention to this tragic incident. IRNA, the government news agency, briefly quoted other wire services with little or no mention of the fact that there were Iranians on board the vessel. Not even the graphic footage available online of the crowded wooden boat shattering into thousands of pieces seemed to trouble Iranians. Does this mean that the Iranian people have become desensitized toward the lives of their fellow citizens, in particular when it comes to "irregular migrants"?

While Iran's state media cold-heartedly belittled the fact that there were Iranians among those on board, according to Australian officials, Iranians have represented the second-largest national cohort among irregular maritime arrivals this year. Over the past three decades, war, political instability, and human rights violations have resulted in Iran becoming one of the world's leading sources of emigration. According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 100,000 Iranians seek asylum abroad each year. Almost 80 percent have no access to UNHCR assistance and wait in countries such as Turkey and Iraq under inhumane conditions, subject to detention and abuse. After long delays, their asylum applications are in most cases denied and they face deportation.

The international media that cover the story are missing the main point by focusing on the human traffickers and blaming them for the lives lost. Tougher border control measures and more restricted access to asylum systems have led to increasingly well organized people smuggling operations. The Australian government, like those of other countries, should be held accountable for implementing inhumane migration laws. But above all, the native countries of the asylum seekers are most to blame.

About 6,300 asylum seekers arrived in Australia last year. Christmas Island, a tiny Australian territory that lies much closer to Indonesia, is for thousands of desperate migrants, including Iranians, a gateway to a chance at a decent life. Among the first bodies recovered, there were four infants, three children, nine women, and 12 men. By Monday, the official death toll had risen to 48 and many of the missing may never be found.

Their dreams of a better future, which they shared with thousands of asylum seekers before them, were shattered by the ocean's violent waves. The many stories of those individuals pushed by social and political circumstances to leave behind their native lands, their memories, their roots, and all their belongings to board the "boat of death" have yet to be told.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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7 Comments

Terrible News.

But wait stay tuned! Pirouz and Maziar Irani are getting their speech ready right now. They are definitely gonna somehow pin up the culprit to be the imperialist weather conditions around Australia and based on Pirouz/Maziar Irani/IRIB/ Kayhannews sources the people on the boat belonged to the "Green Movement" hence its their fault. The images are also made up by Persian BBC reporter that happen to be on vacation in Christmas Island.

Agnostic / December 21, 2010 1:59 AM

O No
Sorry Maziar Irani, you are the good guy.

Agnostic / December 21, 2010 2:08 AM

" I rather be dead than living in the hell hole of Islamic Republic. ", said a young Iranian asylum seeker after learning about the fate of his fellow countrymen.

This is the truth about today's Iran and Iranians.

Niloofar / December 21, 2010 2:12 AM

I feel so sorry that these innocent people who have been rejected by their won government and countries are being ignored by the rest of the world too, as if death is the only solution.

When they get on the boat, they know they are going to die but there are moments in some people lives when they are ready to risk anything. It is sad that Australia reacts cold-heartedly too!

Taraneh / December 21, 2010 4:30 AM

Sad story, what could be done? when are we gonna feel safe and sound in our own native country?

Parisa / December 21, 2010 5:44 AM

May their souls rest in peace.

Allah rahmat elasin.

Anonymous / December 21, 2010 10:10 AM

For years there have been migrant camps in Northern France of those seeking to enter the UK. The populations of these camps were mostly Iraqis,Afghans and Iranians. The first 2 countries were war zones so people were fleeing for their lives but Iran what was it doing in that club? It wasn't a war zone or was it?

pirooz / December 21, 2010 9:23 PM