Lebanese boat people pretending to be Syrians die off Indonesia, blame placed on Australia

This is a special commentary from reader ‘pungentpeppers’ who has become a much-appreciated unofficial reporter and investigator here at RRW.   Emphasis is mine.

The doomed boat (photo texted from a cell phone).


You may have heard the terrible news last week about the ill-fated group of mostly Lebanese migrants who had dreams of living in Australia.  They included 68 Lebanese citizens, of whom 40 perished.  Many of them were children who drowned when their boat crashed and broke up in rough waters 50 meters off the Indonesian coast.  It was an ill-conceived voyage from the start.

These Lebanese, who were dissatisfied with their lives in Lebanon, believed they could do better.  So they listened to the sales pitches of unscrupulous smugglers.  People smugglers, who work in the lucrative trade of transporting human souls, persuaded their Lebanese victims that they would be transported safely and would receive residency in Australia.  Some Lebanese from their region had previously succeeded in such a venture.  But the smugglers neglected to mention that the Australian Government had changed its policies and would no longer grant asylum to any person who comes to Australia illegally by boat.

There were warnings.  One man, Ali Taleb, who had already settled in Australia and was living in Melbourne, told his brother, “If you come with them I will never talk to you till the end of time.”  Perhaps because of that threat his brother is alive today.  Another family, that of survivor Hussein Khoder, urged the father to make the voyage alone, and leave his eight children in Lebanon – their grandfather offered to take care of them.  His brother said, “There’s a 90 percent chance you will die.”  But Hussein Khoder answered, “Either we all die, or we all live”, and chose to go ahead.  Call it hubris, call it irrational expectations, or call it entitlement or greed, or perhaps it was the false belief that the involvement of children would force the Australian Government’s hand – whatever was in his mind, the man decided to spend the $80,000 the smugglers demanded, and set out with his wife and children for Indonesia, along with the other doomed travelers.

The plan for these Lebanese was to pose as Syrian war refugees, fly to Indonesia, get on a boat, and then call Australian rescue who would come, like a taxi service, and pick them up and carry them to Australia.  The migrants destroyed their Lebanese documents, grabbed their fake Syrian passports and took off from Indonesia in a rickety wooden boat.  One of the men texted home to Lebanon a picture of them sitting on that boat. [*photograph link below* use as illustration*] The small craft traveled some distance, but was still within the range of cell phone service, so it could not have wandered far offshore.  At that point, according to one of the survivors, Abdullah Al-Qisi, they called the Australian Government for help, even though they were still close to the Indonesian shoreline.  “We called the Australian Government for 24 hours, they were telling us ‘we’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming,’ and they didn’t come,” said Al-Qisi to TV reporters. “We sent them the position on the GPS, exactly where we are, and we drowned and nobody came.  This is because of the Australian Government. I want them to know that.”  “And we wait two hours. We wait 24 hours, and we kept calling them: ‘We don’t have food, we don’t have water for three days, we have children, just rescue us.’ And nobody come. Sixty person dead now because of Australian government.’’  He further alleged that he lost his whole family because Australians did not come when they phoned in the rescue the day before the sinking.

Here’s where accounts differ:  The asylum seekers’ story was that they called on Thursday.  However, a statement from the Australian immigration minister’s office states that the first time the Australians heard about the boat was from a call on Friday morning.  The Australian Maritime Safety Authority coordinated the initial rescue effort and notified the Indonesian search and rescue agency, since the boat was in Indonesian waters.  A merchant vessel responded, as well as an Australian Border Protection Command aircraft, but neither could locate the vessel.

But why did the boat migrants need help?  The survivors said their two motors had stopped working.  So they called Australia and waited for their Australian rescuers to arrive.  While they waited, their stocks of food and water diminished and the seas grew rougher.  The motor that pumped water ran out of fuel, and the boat started taking on water.  The migrants and the boat’s crew decided they had better turn back towards land.  It’s unclear how they managed to return without either “broken” motor working.

Once they were within 50 meters of the Indonesian shore, tragedy struck.  The boat crashed in heavy seas and broke into pieces.  The men who could swim headed for the shore.  As far as I can tell practically all of the women on board perished.  One woman, Nazime Bakour, spied the eldest of her three children in the water and grabbed him, saving his life.  Most of the men, however, apparently saved only their own skinsHussein Khoder, the man who had paid $80,000 to the smugglers to take him, his pregnant wife, and eight children on the boat – he was the sole survivor of his family.  He swam ashore and left his family behind to drown.

I cannot comprehend how a man who was able to collect $80,000 for such a trip, would not spend some of that sum on life jackets for his children!  Saying they are “poor” and have no money is a recurring theme with these migrants.  Yet if you saw the conditions in which they were living in Lebanon – their town, their automobiles, their houses, their furniture – and their ability to come up with thousands upon thousands of dollars to pay the smugglers – you realize they have a rather strange notion of poverty.

After the disaster, the survivors appeared on television, very emotional.  Abdullah Al-Qisi mentioned previously, who spoke excellent English, complained and blamed the Australians.  He said he called the Australians many times on his iPhone!   Did he ever think to use his iPhone to look at the map and check the distance to Australia?  Did he not realize that maybe he should call Indonesia and not Australia, especially since they were barely offshore?!   Al-Qisi and the others spoke of the lost women and children.  How precious and beloved these women and children must have been that the men did not strive to save them?  Left them in the water?  Did not give them life jackets?  Put them on a rickety boat?  Indeed, they seem not to have been very concerned about those “women and children”!

An Australian television program, SBS Dateline, aired a 6-minute special about the reaction in Lebanon to the deaths.  The video shows Qabeit, the village where many of the victims came from.  Overhead hangs a black banner describing those who perished as “martyrs*** in search of a dignified life”.  It’s a nice village, surrounded by orchards and mountains.  People have cars and trucks, not donkeys.  Homes, not shacks.  Furniture, not mats on the floor.  Curtains on the windows.  People who looked well fed.  Do they even know what “poor” means?  Yet, in the film they say the family that spent $80,000 could not “afford” to buy their baby a bed.  The relatives of the dead children brought out their photographs, and called them “an army” – because of how many they were.   One by one, they reverentially laid out each photograph on a table.  They showed the girls. They showed the boys.  As the pictures of the two lost boys were placed on the table, their uncle called each one by his nickname and said he was “mudallal” – “pampered”.  Yes, the boys were pampered and spoiled.  And as spoiled boys become men – they become willing to risk their women and children’s lives and leave them in the ocean to drown.

The cleric of the village, Sheik Ali Khoder, yelled in anger in Arabic, “Listen, Australia. The boat sought help and rescue and the coastguard kicked the boat out and told the boat “Go back to where you came from.” Shame on you. Shame on you. Ask for the meaning of these words. Australia, shame on you. Australia, which has been the land of dreams, freedom, humanity and justice for so long. Shame on you, that your new rulers have reached the stage of killing people and making this part of their election campaign. Is there a court of justice to try you, Australia?”  Yes, the speechmaker was indignant and angry and put on a big show.  Lebanon is all about appearances.  It doesn’t matter that the ship fell apart but 50 meters from Indonesia’s shore.  It does not matter that the migrants were neither kicked out, nor were they told to go back.  The evil Australians are to blame! They must be made to feel guilt!  They must mend their ways!  The world must condemn them!   Lebanon is all about showing bravado, and anger, and strength.   That’s how their society works.  The truth is twisted.  The weak are abused.  The kind are taken advantage of.  And humanity is viewed as a weakness to be exploited.

Editor:  Cynic that I have become wonders if this was a plan to test the new Australian government hoping to force them to rescue yet another boat carrying illegal Muslim migrants and it went very wrong.

***Why “martyrs” were these Jihadists?

‘Pungentpeppers” has included these links for your further information.   Photo is here.

Dateline is here Opinion piece at the Herald-Sun.  Lebanese village in shock, here.  Survivors will return to Lebanon, here.

40 drowned or are missing, here.  Survivors blame Australia, here.  Asylum seeker recalls horror, here.

Lampedusa death toll expected to rise

Update October 11th:  Refugees breed ill will on Lampedusa, here.

Update October 9th:  German interior minister—the solution is NOT to allow more in, here.

This is a story you could hardly have missed over the last few days when more than a hundred of mostly African illegal aliens drowned trying to reach the island of Lampedusa in Italy.  It was even reported in my small hometown paper, but I would be remiss in not noting it here since we have written so much over the last five plus years about the boat people trying to get from Africa to Italy or Malta.

Emergency workers among bodies

In fact, at least some of the Syrians now blocking the port of Calais in France say they made the journey across the Mediterranean, landed in Italy and simply traveled northward in Europe unmolested by immigration authorities.

From The Independent:

With 111 bodies recovered from the waters off the Italian island of Lampedusa after a boat carrying 500 African migrants capsized, search and rescue teams had to abandon their efforts amid poor weather conditions.

The scale of the tragedy was evident when a ferry delivered 140 more coffins to the little island as preparations were made for mass funerals at five different sites in Agrigento on the Sicilian mainland. More than 350 people are now feared dead.

Coast Guard captain Floriana Segreto, said: “In total among the living and the dead when have accounted for 266 people. But our work is not finished.” Emergency services said that half of those confirmed dead so far were women.

The disaster occurred early on Thursday morning when a 20m boat carrying migrants mainly from Eritrea, Somalia and Ghana got into difficulty less than a mile from the shore of Lampedusa. Someone on board set light to a piece of fabric to attract the attention of nearby ships, but the flames spread, forcing the desperate refugees into the sea.

Vito Fiorino, a Lampedusa resident, said he was the first to come across dozens of migrants scattered in the Mediterranean Sea while he was on an early morning fishing expedition. He told the Associated Press that some of the survivors told him they had been fighting to stay alive for three hours and did not have the strength to grab the life-ring he threw to them. “It was a scene from a film, something you hope never to see in life,” he said.

Read it all.

Photo is from this story at the London Evening Standard, where we hear this:

….the independent UN investigator on the human rights of migrants said the boat wreck highlighted the dangers of harsh measures against people seeking a better life in another country.

I guess what this means is—we can’t beat the criminals so just open the borders world-wide and let them all in!

Syrians block ferry terminal at Calais, demand entry into the UK

Update October 10th:  Brits to French: don’t offload your problem on us, here.

Update October 6th, here.

Are they “refugees” or invaders?  

That’s a question that comes to my mind as I read the many reports coming out of France over the last two days about Syrians demanding entry into the UK even after France relented and offered asylum there.  Hat tip: pungentpeppers who has been following the demonstrators’ demands closely.

Syrian invaders (oops! refugees) sit on a roof at the ferry terminal at Calais. Photo at NBC Philippe Huguen / AFP – Getty Images

I’m also reminded of Kilian Kleinschmidt at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan saying that the Syrians were the most difficult refugees he had ever seen.  Their attitude, that the West owes them something, is not going to endear them to the citizens of first world countries who are frankly sick of the angry squabbling Middle Eastern migrants.

Here is NBC News yesterday:

Some 60 Syrian refugees – many of them on hunger strike – are in a standoff with police at a ferry terminal in northern France.

The group has occupied a footbridge at the port of Calais, a popular crossing point into Britain, and is demanding the British government grant them asylum into the U.K.

Between 20 and 40 of the group have not eaten for two days, activists and protesters said.

Katie Wellington, an activist with the Calais Migrant Society who is at the port, said some 70 riot police attempted to clear the site on Friday morning. In response two Syrians climbed onto a roof and threatened to jump if their asylum demands were not met.

Wellington said the group has effectively given the British government an ultimatum: “Let us into the U.K. or we will die here.”

“These people have different reasons for wanting to come to the U.K.,” she said. “Many of them have family or communities there, and they feel they will get better protection from the [British] government than in France.”

Denis Robin, the prefect of the Pas-de-Calais region, told Sky News he has offered the Syrians, currently illegal migrants, asylum in France.

Mohammed:  “We are ignored.”

One of the protesters, 25-year-old Mohammed al Kayd, said he was an economics student studying in Damascus before he was forced to flee Syria one year ago.

“In Calais we sleep in the streets and no one asks us what we need or what happened to us. We are ignored,” he told NBC News via telephone.   [Well, Mohammed, apparently a good community organizer, managed to not be ignored by NBC.—ed]

Check out Mohammed’s travel route:

“I left Syria with a little bit of money which I had to spend on food and travel,” he said of his 2,000-mile journey across Europe. “I went through Jordan and from there through Egypt and to Italy by boat.

“The journey by boat lasted for 10 days [What?  Was he in a rowboat?—ed] and the last three of these I went without food. From Italy I went to France and traveled to Calais by train.”   [Sounds like he had a pretty easy time traveling across Europe which no longer has border checks on each country—ed]

At France 24 we learn that some of the poor and destitute travelers spent $13,000 to reach the port of Calais and they unleashed their anger at the French President where even the Socialist Hollande now apparently knows that an invasion is on.

Ali, a 38-year-old, can barely hide his anger, saying although French President Francois Hollande had taken a strong stand against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons, the French were not welcoming at all.

“Why does the president say one thing and the police another?” Ali said, adding that he had spent $13,000 (9,500 euros) to come to a country where the “president said ‘we must help Syrians.'”

“Here even animals are better treated than us,” he said.

$13,000!  $13,000!  Where the h*** is all that money coming from? 

Does no mainstream investigative reporter ever ask?  I believe young Muslim activists are being paid to lead these demonstrations, the question is, who is funding them?

I hear Al Azraq calling!  That is the state-of-the-art UN refugee camp in Jordan that sits empty.  How about packing all of the demanding Syrians up and taking them there (including the ones now plaguing Bulgaria).  Such action would send a message and other Syrians would think twice before heading off to Europe.  It is a simple solution, but too sensible for the UN.

For more information:  We never did make a special category for Syrian refugees (a mistake), but if you use our tags you should be able to find the dozens of posts on the topic.  (See tags in right hand side bar).