Refugees and the Australian seafarers who came to their rescue meet up in Sydney and Melbourne
Jeff Carrol, MUA seafarer, was on the Front Puffin when the burnt bodies of Afghani refugees from Ashmore Reef were hauled on board a year ago.
Yesterday he was with the Tamil refugees from the Oceanic Viking in the union rooms to receive donations mining and maritime unions pledged them last year at the height of the controversy.(See Mining and Maritime workers donate to Oceanic Viking refugees)
The meetings of miners, maritime workers and refugees came as the Oceanic Viking, customs boat at the centre of a diplomatic stand-off with Indonesia last year rescued another 35 asylum seekers bound for Australia.
Two crew on a ship spotted the boat south west of Scott Reef. The passengers will be transferred to Christmas Island.
Of the 78 refugees rescued last year most have found homes in Australia, New Zealand and the US. Four are still detained on Christmas Island after receiving adverse security assessments by ASIO.
At the time the MUA crew were unable to make contact with refugees on board so the unions waited until they could be traced in Australia.
Two of the refugees living in Sydney, who did not wish to be named, came to receive their cheques on Monday, thank the unions for their support and personally present Jeff with his ACTU certificate awarded to him and the crew of both the Puffin and the Viking for their humanitarian efforts.
Both refugees told of the long years in exile seeking asylum and their gratitude to the unions for the role they played in helping them reach asylum on Australian shores.
One man told of how they put SOS messages in bottles overboard to get the message of their plight to the world. Another of how a mobile phone was smuggled to them on board the ship.
There to present the cheques were Tony Maher, Ian Murray, CFMEU Mining and Energy, Brami Jegan, Apheda and Joe Deakin, MUA:
"I felt very moved and honoured that the two unions would make that commitment - a monitory commitment as well as a moral commitment to help these poor souls out," said Joe. "They've become the brunt of racist bigotry around the world. Governments treat them as a political football and if you left it up to the Opposition these poor souls would be drifting out in the ocean forever.
"Seafarers have a rule of the sea that you look after one another," he said. "Whether they're seafarers or not if anyone is in trouble we're there to help them. Seafarers are duty bound to help."
The Sydney presentation follows an earlier function in Melbourne where refugees, their teachers at the Adult Migrant Education Service and representatives of the Tamil community attended a presentation ceremony with Kevin Bracken, Branch Secretary and three Viking crew members. The event was held in conjunction with the monthly meeting of maritime workers at the union rooms on April 25.
The MUA crew of the Front Puffin and Oceanic Viking won special commendation at the ACTU 'union logies' in April for 'bravery, courage and compassion' assisting the rescue of refugees off Ashmore Reef in April 2009 and Indonesia in October, 2009.
MUA Oceanic Viking delegates Ashley Pollock, John Allwood, Kel Lewis, and Bruce Noble were nominated alongside Front Puffin MUA delegates John, Steve Hulm, Jeff Carrol, Jannick Hansen, Mark Taylor, Gavin Bennett, Jimmy Best Caterer and Ian Lamey for their selflessness, leadership, principled action and outstanding contribution in the, The Year of the Seafarer.