15 April 2011

People Smuggling: Indonesians Jailed in Australia...

People smuggling is a crime, perhaps a heinous crime. It is one that does not pay, particularly if you get caught in Australian waters. Australia has pretty serious consequences for those that are caught and successfully prosecuted. The minimum mandatory sentence for those convicted of people smuggling is five years. However, non-parole periods can be set, and this seems to be in the range of three years.

Four Indonesians have learned the seriousness of the consequences the hard way and have been sentenced to five years in prison. The Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane has found the men were responsible for the trips of two boatloads of Afghanis, Kurds and Iranians to Australia. But, the court was clear that the men were not the orgainsers of the trips, rather they were recruited by others to do their dirty work.

Each of the passengers paid somewhere between AUD 5000 and AUD 15000 for their passage. The Indonesians, Ferry Irawan and Sali were caught off the Ashmore Reef and Anton Tambunan and Joko Sampurno were caught off Christmas Island on two separate boats. The Indonesians were paid about IDR 5 million for the voyages.

There are some 70 others awaiting their turn to make their way through the Australian court system for people smuggling offenses. So, it would seem that there will be plenty of others looking at the five-year minimum mandatory sentence.

The question that arises from all this is are minimum mandatory sentences enough to thwart people smugglers and stop the crime? Probably not. Let's face it, when there is an offer of 3, 4, 5 or 50 times what you would normally earn in a month, then it is fair to say that there will be plenty of poor and illiterate Indonesian fisherman that will not think twice about looking a "gift horse" in the mouth. Perhaps the answer is not the poor fisherman getting caught. Perhaps the answer is to work harder at identifying and arresting the core organisers of these people smuggling operations.

Then again, perhaps the answer is getting those countries were the people being smuggled transit to Australia to take the crime seriously enough to draft and enact legislation that puts in place significant penalties that are likely to deter individuals from becoming involved in people smuggling operations.