Lebanese survivors of Australia-bound refugee boat return home

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 06, 2013 12:40 PM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Lebanese asylum seeker who lost his wife and eight children when a boat carrying migrants sank off Indonesia said on Sunday passengers had been left without lifejackets to face death.

Hussein Khodor was among 18 Lebanese survivors who returned home on Sunday.

"If we had had lifejackets, maybe no one would have died. They lied to us, they told us it would be a big ship with seats and there will be food and everything. They lied," he told local media after reaching his village in northern Lebanon.

At least 31 would-be asylum seekers died last month when their boat sank off the southern coast of Indonesia, a common transit point for refugees trying to make their way to Australia.

More than 30 of the 80 who had been on board are still missing. All of the passengers were from the Middle East, Indonesian police said.

At least 52 of them were Lebanese, including children, most of them trying to escape poverty in deprived villages in the northern district of Akkar.

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"If we had a (caring) government we wouldn't have done this and tried to leave," Khodor said.

Lebanese officials and family members greeted the emotional survivors at the airport.

"This should be a lesson to our Lebanese government so it gives special attention to the deprived areas," said Hadi Hobeich, a member of parliament.

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; editing by Andrew Roche)