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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anxious relatives are trying to contact Australian authorities


BY:DEBBIE GUEST
From:The Australian
June 27, 2012 12:00AM



A 28-year-old Iranian woman being held on Christmas Island says she and other detainees are 'so sad' over the mass drowning. Picture: Daniel Wilkins Source: The Australian


TEENAGE boys desperate to escape persecution in Afghanistan and Pakistan probably made up most of the 90-plus asylum-seekers who drowned off Christmas Island last week, it emerged yesterday, as police moved to identify at least three of the 17 bodies recovered.

Anxious relatives overseas are trying to contact Australian authorities for information on whether their loved ones are alive. Afghan man Raiz Hussain told The Australian from his home in the United Arab Emirates he feared his brother Asad, 25, was on the boat and might be dead.

Mr Hussain said his brother had been in Indonesia for 18 months and wanted to get on a boat to Australia; he had been unable to contact him since the disaster.

"Sometimes he was calling me from Indonesia and told us he wanted to go to Australia, and now his phone is switched off. I'm worried he was on this ship," he said. "When the boat was destroyed, his phone was switched off."


He said he and his brother were from Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, and the threat from the Taliban made life dangerous and had forced them to leave.

On Monday, Pakistani Muhammad Essa contacted The Australian concerned about his 36-year-old brother Jabir Hussain.

Australian Hazara Federation spokesman Hassan Ghulam said four other families worried about Hazaras from Afghanistan and Pakistan had contacted him through friends in Australia.

He said one youth believed to be missing was 15 or 16 and he had heard through Brisbane's Hazara community that many more teenage boys were on board the boat and unaccounted for.

The boat was carrying about 200 people; only 110 survived.

West Australian police inspector Neville Dockery, who is leading the coronial investigation into the tragedy, said three of the bodies recovered were likely to be able to be visually identified. About 20 officers were continuing with the victim identification process and interviewing survivors yesterday.

News of the tragedy has swept through the island's detention centres. One Iranian woman in the island's family camp told The Australian she and fellow detainees were very upset. "We're so sad, we don't know who they are," said the 28-year-old woman, who did not want to be named.

"We're very worried it might be our friends, we're very worried about them and about everyone who comes this way."

The woman said she had made the journey to Australia from Indonesia with her brother and they had spent three frightening days at sea. "This is very dangerous. We were very scared," she said through the detention fence.

Two of four injured survivors were released from Royal Perth Hospital yesterday after being flown off Christmas Island on Friday and Saturday.

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