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Why would Lebanese board the boat?

By Joseph Wakim - posted Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The tragic drowning of the Lebanese citizens in Indonesia should be a wakeup call for officials … Lebanese people cannot build their future in their own country.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora galvanised the tragedy to highlight the desperation of poverty-stricken parts of Lebanon.

But this sentiment may be music to the ears of Prime Minister Tony Abbott who has been singing the same tune that our primary responsibility in these tragedies is to stop the boats.


While Abbott may galvanise the tragedy to highlight the fatal 'means', the source countries are navel-gazing about the human 'cause'.

But in a new military model that is driven by Operation Sovereign Borders and immigration policies coupled with Border Protection, questions of why asylum seekers leave their home countries are off the political radar.

To seriously and simply 'stop the boats', we cannot afford to be simplistic. We need to stop the causes of the people inside the boats. This does not mean solving all the inhumane push factors that drive this desperation, but it does mean looking beyond the 'people smuggling' pull factors and looking more at the people than the boats.

Who were the people inside the latest boat tragedy?

We know that they were an estimated 120 people from Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen, of whom there have been only 28 survivors so far.

We know that they were at sea for five days before food and water supplies depleted before the two Indonesian crew became disoriented then decided to return to the Javanese coast in six meter waves.


We know that the Lebanese boarders were mainly from Akkar, the northernmost region of Lebanon bordering Syria.

We know that more than a million Syrians have fled the war to Lebanon which has placed enormous economic strain on this struggling neighbour of only four million residents. Stories of Akkar families struggling without affordable schools, electricity and food to feed themselves abound. Stories of Syrians resorting to cheap labour, crime and even prostitution abound. Stories of car bombs exploding near Lebanese mosques in August, echoing the seismic sectarian strife within Syria and threatening to widen the fault lines within Lebanese civil society abound. Stories of frustrated Lebanese crying out for some of the foreign aid that is sent to their new Syrian 'neighbours' abound.

Stories of people predators with promises of visitor visas to Indonesia then a ship to Christmas Island abound. Akkar families with 'nothing to lose and everything to gain' became the perfect prey, in the hope of a future life in Australia.

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About the Author

Joseph Wakim founded the Australian Arabic Council and is a former multicultural affairs commissioner.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Joseph Wakim

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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