Twenty-seven bodies are recovered from the churning waters off tiny Christmas Island. Another 41 people are rescued and one person makes it to shore of an estimated 70 on the boat. Authorities believe the asylum-seekers are from Iraq and Iran.
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I have always advised the Iraqis I know never to take this disastrous route. But for some Iraqis in desperate situations, the benefits (real or perceived) far outweigh the risks of such a perilous journey. They tend to be younger college graduates, both single and with families, who do not have a very realistic idea of what awaits them during the trip to Australia. The local "handlers" also play a big role in this tragedy as they can receive up to $10,000 in cash for a single person and they keep the circumstances of the journey ambiguous until the moment the refugees are told to crowd onto one of these boats.
My cousin made it all the way to Malaysia two years ago and then decided to return home when other Iraqis there described this crazy boat journey to Australia. He had been kidnapped twice in Baghdad by a local gang whose members were linked to an Iraqi police checkpoint in the neighborhood. His family paid hefty ransoms only to be told that their son would return to them in a coffin the third time if they don't leave their house. When he returned to Iraq he told me he would rather die a quick death by a bullet outside his house than to drown in stormy seas halfway across the globe.