Half a decade after the sinking of SIEVX, the Australian Government still refuses to release the names of the victims and continues to spread propaganda about the tragedy including halving the number of children who died in the sinking. Yesterday the Government-dominated Senate defeated a motion from the Greens demanding that the Government table the lists of SIEVX names that it holds.
It is crucial that the names of the victims are acknowledged. Even if the Government has only partial information it should be released - out of respect for the dead, and out of compassion for people around the world who fear that their missing relatives may have perished on SIEVX. Earlier this week I received another email from someone asking for help in finding out if a family member perished on SIEVX - a heartbreaking request, one that comes in far too often. If the Government's lists were in the public arena at least there would be some idea of whose relatives died that day.
But now, on the fifth anniversary of the sinking, the Government continues to resist calls to publish the information. Instead it promulgates inaccuracies from the CMI Report.
Earlier this week the Shadow Minister for Immigration Tony Burke announced a proposal to change ALP policy to abolish Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) due to the tragedy of SIEVX, arguing that abolition of TPVs would eliminate the need for people to take perilous journeys with people smugglers in order to reunite with family members in Australia.
Two days ago in a media release headed 'Burke's Misinformation on SIEV X Children a Disgrace' Minister Amanda Vanstone responded with a scathing attack, labelling the proposed ALP policy as counter-productive, claiming it would invite people smugglers to 'come on down'. And along the way she criticized the Shadow Minister for saying that 146 children died on SIEVX, and quoted the erroneous CMI Report which gives the figure as only 70 children. This is an Orwellian attack from the Minister who is herself disseminating misinformation with the figure of 70 children, and who has previously peddled other inaccuracies on SIEVX about the people smuggler Abu Quassey and the sinking position of the vessel.
There is strong evidence to challenge the figure of 70 child victims of SIEVX in the CMI report and to support the estimate of 146 children including:
The widely accepted figure of 146 children who died is unlikely to be exact, but it is a much more reliable approximation than the CMI report's figure of 70.
I have compiled a database of passengers who traveled on SIEVX, gathered from a range of sources and cross checked for accuracy; out of approximately 421 people who boarded the boat, I have 163 names including 49 young children under the age of 13 (an underestimation as it excludes children under 1 year of age and those for whom age is unknown). There is no reason to expect that the names of child victims would have emerged ahead of those of the adults who died; so applying the same ratio of children to adults from the known names (30%) to the total number of passengers (421) produces the figure 126 children, much closer to the estimate from the three sources above than the figure included in the CMI Report and quoted by the Government.
I challenged this flaw in the CMI Report as soon as it was released. And yet the Report continues to stand as the definitive source.
It is time for the Government to release the list of names of the SIEVX victims and acknowledge the enormity of this tragedy. It is also time to debunk the CMI Report and the errors it has enshrined.
(For further information on the quest to obtain the names of the SIEVX dead see 'Do we know the names of those who drowned on SIEVX?' in our FAQ)