Luke Mogelson, writing for the New York Times Magazine:
Our destination was an Australian territory, more than 200 miles across the Indian Ocean, called Christmas Island. If the weather is amenable, if the boat holds up, the trip typically lasts three days. Often, however, the weather is tempestuous, and the boat sinks. Over the past decade, it is believed that more than a thousand asylum seekers have drowned. The unseaworthy vessels are swamped through leaky hulls, capsize in heavy swells, splinter on the rocks. Survivors sometimes drift for days. Children have watched their parents drown, and parents their children. Entire families have been lost. Since June, several boats went down, claiming the lives of more than a hundred people.
I first heard about the passage from Indonesia to Australia in Afghanistan, where I live and where one litmus test for the success of the U.S.-led war now drawing to a close is the current exodus of civilians from the country. (The first “boat people” to seek asylum in Australia were Vietnamese, in the mid-1970s, driven to the ocean by the fallout from that American withdrawal.) Last year, nearly 37,000 Afghans applied for asylum abroad, the most since 2001. Afghans who can afford to will pay as much as $24,000 for European travel documents and up to $40,000 for Canadian. (Visas to the United States, generally, cannot be bought.) Others employ smugglers for arduous overland treks from Iran to Turkey to Greece, or from Russia to Belarus to Poland.
A fascinating (not to mention life-threatening) piece of reporting. I literally could not put my iPad down until I had finished this piece. It's the kind of narrative that I will forever remember whenever I hear someone take a position on immigration/illegal immigration. There is no accounting for what people with no hope will resort to. There are the choices desperate people make—and there's this story.