Jessica Wright, Sydney Morning Herald, February 3, 2014
A convicted people smuggler believes the Abbott government’s hard-line policy of turning back the boats is working as a deterrent for both people smugglers and those seeking passage by boat to Australia.
Dawood Amiri spoke to Fairfax Radio’s Neil Mitchell by phone from his jail cell in an Indonesian prison and claimed corrupt Indonesian police, immigration officials and navy personnel were aiding and profiting from the people smuggling trade.
The Afghan national said people smugglers and their clients were being put off by the prospect of being turned back at sea by the Royal Australian Navy.
Asked if he believed the Abbott government’s controversial policy of “turning back the boats” would work, Amiri replied: “Of course it will work, it is working.
“It will stop the boats from Indonesia to Australia”, he said.
“[The threat of being turned back at sea coupled with the risk of the voyage] will stop the boats coming. As far as I know, people smugglers have made their money and they will stop.”
A single journey to Australia cost between $1500 to $5000, he said.
It is understood that as part of the Coalition government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy the Royal Australian Navy and Border Patrol officials have turned back or performed tow-backs on up to 10 boats that have entered Australian territorial waters since December.
Amiri is serving a six-year sentence in a Jakarta prison after playing a direct role in sending up to five boats of asylum seekers to Australia and for a minor role in organising the fatal journey of a boat that sank off Christmas Island in June 2012 in which 96 people died.
Amiri said he was guilt-stricken over the 96 people who had drowned during the fatal voyage which he had “indirectly” organised.
“I feel for their lives,” he said.
Having himself fled from war-torn Afghanistan, Amiri was firm in his assessment whether those who paid for a perilous passage to Australia on rickety fishing boats were genuine or economic refugees.
“Of course they are genuine, of course,” he said. “There are too many target killings, too many killings in [some countries ]. They have no choice but to run.
“People fear for their lives.”
Amiri also made claims of corruption against members of the Indonesian police, custom and immigration officials and Indonesian Navy officers saying many were directly profiteering from the people smuggling trade.
There was not a single recorded boat arrival in January, making it the quietest period in boat arrivals in six years.