NEW ZEALAND: Tampa captain a 'real hero'



The New Zealand government announced on May 6 that it would accept 140 refugees — 71 Afghans and 69 Iraqis— to ease pressure on United Nations refugee camps in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Nauru.

Fourteen of the refugees were rescued from the MV Tampa. The NZ government has now accepted 144 Tampa refugees, compared with the Australian government's zero.

On the same day as the government's announcement, the MV Tampa docked in Auckland. Captain Arne Rinnan, on his last voyage before retirement, had a private reunion with 50 of the Afghans who were rescued by his ship's crew last September. One young Afghan told the May 7 Age: "He's a hero to us. We've seen many heroes in the movies but he's our real hero."

Rinnan explained to reporters that his actions did not merit hero status. "This is the law at sea — to assist or rescue people in distress — and that's what we were doing... a human life is a human life, it doesn't matter what shape and colour [or] religion".

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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