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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Tampa captain's tale of woe
Illegal migration on boats to Australia has become a political hot potato
Migration has become a key issue in the region
After the refugee-laden Norwegian cargo ship Tampa was refused entry to Australian waters, the captain, Arne Rinnan, told BBC News Online's Lars Bevanger what happened:

"At 1103 local time yesterday [Sunday] we received a rescue call from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre Australia.

"We were four hours away from the ship, so we headed towards it. In the rescue call we were told the ship was holding 80 people plus. When we arrived we took on board 438 people, 22 of them women and 43 children.


"We were then told the Australian authorities would not allow the Tampa to enter Australian waters. I am disappointed with this. We behaved as good seamen and rescued people in an emergency. Now we are lumbered with this problem

"Their boat was in a very bad state. It was taking in a lot of water and was about to sink. It was only about 20 metres long. We understand they had been at sea for 10 days. The boat fell to pieces when we tried to take it on board the Tampa.

"The people were largely in good shape, there was only one injured, with a broken leg. Once we had them all onboard, we set sail towards the Sunda strait [in Indonesia].

"Then a delegation of five men came up to the bridge. They behaved aggressively, and told us they would not go back to Indonesia. They made us worried for everybody's safety, they told us they had nothing to lose.


"We contacted RCC Australia and explained the situation. They told us it was up to the captain of the ship to decide what to do next, so I decided to go to [the Australian] Christmas Island.

"We were then told the Australian authorities would not allow the Tampa to enter Australian waters. I am disappointed with this. We behaved as good seamen and rescued people in an emergency. Now we are lumbered with this problem.

"The children were very happy to get onboard the Tampa. All things considered, they are all well, and they are playing and running around on deck.


If this goes on for long it can start to affect the crew. Also we don't have enough safety equipment to cater for such a number of people

"Last night one of our Filipino crew told them stories and fed them Norwegian chocolate.

"So far everybody has been behaving very nicely, they're sat down on deck watching Christmas Island. As long as they can see it, they say they will stay calm.

"If we move, they say they will 'go crazy', and threaten with jumping ship. There have been no threats of violence, but the tone has been aggressive, so for the safety of everybody I stay put.

"But many have now started to show signs of illness. People have got diarrhoea and four have fainted recently. There are also four pregnant women. Two of them say they are seven months pregnant.

'Untenable situation'

"The situation is not tenable. At 6pm [Monday] local time they went on hunger strike. They refuse food, water, cigarettes and medicines. Children are allowed to eat.

"Luckily we do have enough food for about one week to 10 days, as we stocked up before leaving Freemantle [in Western Australia].

"It is now 28 degrees Celsius, and we have opened up five large containers where people can sleep. The heat is not a problem at the moment.

We keep two crew members on guard at all times, to spot if anybody needs medical attention.

"The crew is taking this calmly and nicely, but none of us like lying here. We are used to sailing from harbour to harbour.

"If this goes on for long it can start to affect the crew. Also we don't have enough safety equipment to cater for such a number of people.

"We can only hope the Norwegian foreign ministry and the Australian authorities manage to sort this out very soon."

See also:

27 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dispute grows over refugee ship
13 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia condemns vigilantes
25 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia may take fewer refugees
05 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's detention camps criticised
31 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia's migrant policy under fire
12 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Boost for anti-immigrant party
22 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Immigrants riot in Australian camp
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