A group of Australian volunteers hoping to save Vietnamese refugees at sea...say they hope to?
A group of Australian volunteers hoping to save Vietnamese refugees at sea...say they hope to begin their task within a week.
SYNOPSIS: Being fitted out for the operation is the 1100 ton freighter Tungni, now anchored in Singapore harbour.
18 Australians, members of the Roman Catholic lay organisation Fatima International, took possession of the vessel on Tuesday (20 February) after paying 100,000 US dollars for it.
The group is due to leave on Friday (23 February), but difficulty in hiring local crew could delay the departure. The blame is being put on the current Sino/Viet border war. Some of the ship's crew members including the master have already left the boat for fear of being caught up in the conflict.
The group's director, Mr. Robert Bergin, said the Tungni, to be renamed "Star of the Sea", will ply the waters of the South China Sea picking up refugees whose small boats are in trouble.
The vessel will chart a course up the Malaysian east coast and eventually towards Vietnam. Although Mr. Bergin acknowledged that the group's plan was not very popular with the governments of the region who are trying to cope with the refugee problem, he didn't expect to be stopped from sailing from Singapore.
The group said they will have food and supplies aboard which would allow them to take no more than 100 refugees at a time. But they admitted that there were no specific plans for the refugees after they were rescued.
Fatima International has called on the Australian government to donate an island for resettlement.