The Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney has obtained a letter, reprinted below, which was written to the immigration department 40 days after the Christmas Island disaster, by survivors.
RAC has welcomed the subsequent government decision to release Seena, the nine-year-old orphaned Iranian boy (and the family that is caring for him), and two other orphaned survivors, but says all survivors must be released.
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In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful
On 15th December 2010, a ship numbered 221 commenced its journey to Christmas Island. After passing through Indonesian waters, it entered Australian waters and continued sailing towards Christmas Island. As it approached the Island, due to the conditions at the time, the ship crashed onto the rocks off the coast.
Due to the force of the impact, the ship broke apart. The people on board were either killed or injured and some of the bodies were unable to be recovered. Police retrieved some of the bodies from the waters and transferred them to the morgue. The Federal Police and Crime Police then
became involved and all the ship’s occupants who survived the incident assisted the police to get results as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we have a number of issues that have not been resolved:
1. Forty days after the tragedy, police have not finished their investigation and the bodies of those who died are still being kept in the morgue. This is against our religious beliefs, which stipulates that the bodies of the dead should be buried as soon as possible, or should be returned to their countries of origin for proper burial practices.
During this time, the police and the immigration bureau have refused to answer our questions and are continually delaying the case.
This is creating a great deal of prolonged suffering for those families who have lost members. They are suffering from depression and ongoing trauma from the incident, as well as struggling to deal with their own feelings of guilt as survivors.
We are struggling to understand why it is that the bodies of our loved ones still need to be kept by the authorities and not released for proper burial. This is causing untold stress on the families, who want their loved ones to find peace and be treated respectfully.
2. The current situation remains that the survivors of the wreck have lost children, fathers, mothers and siblings and continue to be held in a facility where there are not enough medical facilities available. The survivors continue to suffer from spiritual loss and mental illnesses. For their own health, they need to be transferred to a place with adequate facilities to allow them to
recover from this tragedy.
3. It is important to note the effects of this situation on the children who have lost their parents. They are currently so traumatised that they become terrified when it rains and believe that the island will sink. During the night, they suffer from terrible nightmares from their fear of remaining on the island. Something urgently needs to be done for them, as a continuation of this situation may have permanently damaging effects on their mental health.
We would like the authorities in Australia to urgently find a solution to this situation, to assist the victims of these tragic circumstances, who have lost their families, who are deeply traumatised human beings, suffering badly from depression and the ongoing effects of their loss. We are impatiently waiting for your reply.
From the survivors of Ship 221
On Christmas Island
Re: complaint number 2011-101209.