Mother of drowned children now faces eviction in Jakarta

Andrew Clennell
25 February 2002
Sydney Morning Herald

Sondos Ismael, who lost three daughters in last year's boat disaster and has been waiting for five months to be reunited with her husband in Australia, faces yet another crisis. She has been told she must leave her United Nations accommodation in Jakarta this week. The vice-president of the Lebanese Muslims Association, Keysar Trad, said yesterday Ms Ismael and four other female survivors from the boat would be ordered to leave their shelter.

He said he believed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was fed up with waiting for Australia to accept the five.

Instead, the UN had offered Ms Ismael and the others $50 a month to live on.

Ms Ismael is being held up by Australian demands that she obtain a police clearance from Iran where she spent some time, even though Mr Trad said Iran does not provide police clearances to non-residents. And Iranian police had told Ms Ismael's sister that five times.

Mr Trad claimed Ms Ismael's sister had been threatened with arrest if she asked for the clearance again.

Ms Ismael said, in a statement through Mr Trad: 'I lost my sister and my children in the drowning. I appeal to the minister for immigration and to the Australian people, please help me, I am helpless here.'

A spokesman for Mr Ruddock said the Government had an option to simply ask for a written assurance from Ms Ismael that she had no criminal record. But a recommendation for such a waiver usually came from the case's 'decision-maker', the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the Government said there would be no recriminations against a navy sailor, Laura Whittle, whose family told the Sun-Herald they were annoyed a photo widely published of her rescuing asylum seekers from the ocean was misrepresented during the election campaign.

The photo of Able Seaman Whittle rescuing asylum seekers who had been on a sinking boat on October 8 was presented by the Government on October 10 as being of the rescue of a child who had been thrown overboard.

Asked if the sailor would be disciplined for the reports, the Defence Minister, Robert Hill, said: 'No, we're not into that.'

Senator Hill also played down comments by the commander of the United States's military forces in the Pacific who was quoted in The Washington Post newspaper as saying he did not know if terrorists were using the same transport network as people smugglers.

'There is certainly no evidence of extensive linkages in that regard,' Senator Hill said.


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