Sunday, Apr 19, 2015Sunday, Apr 19, 2015

Memories haunt sole survivor of asylum boat tragedy

Published on Jan 22, 2013 12:11 PM
Lone Afghan survivor Habibullah (right)  escorted by Immigration personnel while detained at the Immigration headquarters in Jakarta. The 22 year old Hazara minority survived four days floating on sea as the rest - 33 Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers plus three Indonesian crew -  perished after their boat organised by people-smuggling syndicate capsized in Indonesian waters about 13 hours after it sailed off from Java island on Oct 26 last year for Australia's Christmas island. -- PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) - The image of his fellow passengers slowly succumbing to Indonesia's unforgiving waters is one that Habibullah - the sole Afghan survivor of an asylum-seeker boat tragedy - will never shake off.

The 22-year-old, now trapped in limbo at a Jakarta detention centre, was en route to an Australian territory in October to seek asylum with 33 other men, all of whom were lost to the Indian Ocean after the boat sank.

"There was rain and strong winds, and on the second night there was a storm and we were swinging like a pendulum," Habibullah told AFP in Jakarta, where he has been detained since his rescue.

"In the morning we saw bodies floating in the water surrounding the boat."

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!