The Boat Arrival

"Quick, get down to the foreshore! There's an asylum seeker boat here."
I started to jog down from the centre of town after a friend dropped her sandwich in disbelief as to what she was seeing, then quickly rang whoever she knew might be near by.

The boat had gotten within a few metres of the shore, as though they were heading for a casual coffee from Skeetas, before a customs boat encircled them and guided them back out a little.

Still only a stones throw from the shore, we took some photos and I quickly uploaded them to Everything Geraldton, Facebook and Twitter.

Within moments the story went viral as of course it would. Comments were rather mixed. Some people were simply gob smacked, others upset that a boat could make it this close to the shore. But for the most part, people were compassionate and understanding... that some people had travelled a long way under harsh conditions risking their lives. They must have been leaving something not very pleasant to risk such a journey and the least we could do is treat them like fellow human beings.

People were asking how they could provide assistance, and who to talk to offer any help they could. The desire of Geraldton locals to be hospitable to these people was touching.

The boat was towed into the port. Onlookers started to flock down to the port and at one point the car park was gridlocked. No one hung around for a long time, as the idea of being a gawker didn't sit too well with anyone. But it was such a strange thing to have happen in our city, that people really wanted to see it for themselves.

There were indeed a lot of people on board for the size of vessel it was, and the boat did not look in great condition. Children and adults sat atop the roof of the boat, probably greatly relieved to see land at long last after their massive journey.

Eventually the people were able to disembark, and they will now likely start the long journey of applying for asylum in our country.

The media from Perth began to arrive. Helicopters and hire cars and cameras everywhere. Geraldton began to "trend" on twitter, and Politicians from all camps were working out what to say to respond to the inevitable onslaught of media enquiry, posturing in order to capitalise on the situation.

The fact that a boat had made it all the way to the mainland was a rarity. The fact that it had made it as far south as Geraldton was incredible.

Others will claim to speak for the people of Geraldton, putting words in our mouths telling the world we now feel unsafe. But standing there on the beach with a boat full of strangers just a few metres away did not feel dangerous. It certainly felt a lot safer than walking through many Geraldton locations at night.

As details emerged, it became believed that the people were from Sri Lanka, were aiming for New Zealand, were between 66 and 72 in number and had been at sea 44 odd days.

Comment

Jason Smith

Founder of Everything Geraldton, Everything Mandurah, & Everything Perth. Law Student. Father, Husband, Bitcoin, Cigars.