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Published: 5 Nov 2009
Mining and maritime workers to venture $10,000 to Oceanic Viking refugees
As the 78 Sr Lankan asylum seekers move into their 20th day at sea, Australian seafarers, miners and wharfies plan to hand $10,000 to the refugees to help them in their crisis.
"It's Australian seafarers who have been with these people through their ordeal and they have been moved to make a meaningful humanitarian gesture. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) with the CFMEU (Mining and Energy Division) have agreed to donate the money", said Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.
"Shortly there will be a "swing" in the crew of the Oceanic Viking - 13 MUA crew will be relieved and replaced with fresh crew. The MUA delegate will distribute the donations among the refugees.
"At least it will mean that the refugees have a bit of light at the end of a very long tunnel", said Mr Crumlin.
"This is about two Aussie unions stumping up to help people fleeing dreadful persecution," said CFMEU President Tony Maher.
"We've all seen the pictures of these desperate families. They are the victims in all this and they need our support", Mr Maher said.
"As the future of these people has hung in the balance, our blokes and others on the Oceanic Viking have just got on with the job of providing as clean and safe an environment for these unfortunate human beings. In doing that job they set aside political arguments," said Mr Crumlin.
"Our members pick up these flotsam and jetsam from a badly stuffed up world from their ships rigs and floating platforms, sometimes at great risk to their own safety.
"Certainly our immigration processes are the preferred mechanism, but many that really have no option but to take a last desperate throw of the dice where they pitch the gamble to survive with their lives, usually because they know with gut wrenching certainty they are likely to lose them anyway if they hang around the home town.
"What this episode has reinforced is the need for the Government to ensure that the revitalisation of Australian shipping currently before the Government goes ahead. The role our merchant navy and respected seafarers play in border protection and security cannot be overestimated", says Mr Crumlin.
The role of the merchant navy throughout the south east Asia and the Pacific will be an issue of interest at the International Transport Workers Oceanic seminar from Monday November 9-11.