Naval officers reveal asylum seeker shame

In an interview on ABC's 7:30 program,
Australian Naval officers reveal their horrific experiences in
executing the Government's policy on asylum seekers.
Sailors from the Royal Australian Navy have described the torment and
psychological distress of having to fish asylum seeker bodies out of
the ocean as part of the country's border protection operations during
the Labor government.

On the ABC's 7.30 program, several
members of the navy have spoken of arriving at ghastly scenes of bodies
in the water and the lack of support they received from the navy
following the rescue missions as asylum-seeker boats made their way to
Australian shores.

One serving navy officer, "Michael", told the
ABC that, in one instance, his boat was delayed for 15 hours and they
had reports that a boat had sunk 13 hours before.

Australian customs officials and navy personnel escort asylum-seekers on to Christmas Island in August 2013.
Australian customs officials and navy
personnel escort asylum-seekers on to Christmas Island in August 2013. Photo: Reuters

"All we found was probably a line about 70 miles long of bodies," he said.


"We fished them out for as long as we could, till we were full. And that wasn't uncommon.

the] end of the day, if this does come out, it'll be a witch hunt. The
people who'll get caught are the people who made the decisions, and the
people we're talking about now are the captains of boats. And the
captains of boats, really, are they to blame?"

Many sailors described their battle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the peak of boat arrivals.

Norris was discharged recently from the navy suffering from PTSD. He
told the ABC he spent 13 years intercepting and boarding asylum-seeker

"There'd been times where we had to do body recoveries, which was quite difficult and traumatising," he said.

you'd go to pull these people in the boat and all you'd end up with is a
handful of flesh. It'd just strip to the bone," he said.

Another, identified as Greg, described boarding an over-crowded vessel.

"You jump on and you can smell three days' worth of human faeces, you
can smell vomit, you can smell diesel fuel, you can smell rotting wood,
you can smell people, there are children screaming," he said.

Greg said he saw deeply disturbing behaviour by some asylum seekers,
including an adult snatching a cup of water from a child. He intervened
to stop the attempted rape of a boy by a man claiming to be the boy's

"I became painfully aware that that child was only with him for the purpose of his own pleasure," he said.

a statement to the ABC, Defence said that, since 2011, it had
implemented mental health screening for personnel assigned to border
protection and most had dealt well with the pressures of this operation.

Reported rates of mental health-related symptoms were low, it said.

"Within the time available, Defence is not able to report how many of
those referred for follow-up went on to be diagnosed with a mental
health condition," Defence said.

- with AAP