Displaced by massive forest fires that have burned barren swathes across their tinder-dry nation, a vessel carrying more than 200 Australian climate refugees has reportedly entered Sri Lankan waters, hoping to claim asylum in the well-hydrated nation.
Despite being bedraggled and exhausted after more than three weeks at sea, the Aussie refugees, many of them clad in nothing more than board shorts and flip flops, waved wildly to the patrol vessels sent out to assess the situation.
Shouting that they loved Sri Lanka while shaking out a homemade rendering of that island nation’s flag, the arrivals were heard declaring in broken Tamil that the south Asian country is the best country on Earth, “Because it isn’t on fire.”
“We’ve come here looking for a new life,” said a representative of the migrants, speaking over the VHF radio to reporters, as the vessel continued to roll its way towards the port of Colombo in the long Indian Ocean ground swell.
“Our homes are gone, we have lost everything. We just want to live somewhere we can raise our children without being surrounded by destruction. We are tired of rebuilding. We place ourselves at the mercy of the Sri Lankan government. They’re good people, and we know they will not let us starve on this boat, or detain us indefinitely on an island off their coast, as that would be cruel in the extreme. What sort of a country would even think of doing that?”
While expressing fears that allowing the migrants to jump their immigration system queue might encourage more Australians to attempt the long, dangerous voyage, Sri Lankan authorities said that they would of course assist the displaced antipodeans in whatever way they can.
“They’re people after all. It isn’t their fault they were born in Australia. We will look after them, even as I’m sure their country welcome our citizens were the situation reversed.”
Back out at sea, the captain of the Sri Lankan naval vessel sent out to escort the refugees into port, agrees.
“Sure, there are many in our country who question what value these Australians bring, coming as they do with little more than the clothes on their backs, and unable to speak the language,” Captain Gunesekera says, as he oversees the lowering of the rescue boat that will be used to make first contact with the migrant vessel.
“But these are challenges that can be overcome. After all, what chance do we have on this small, and rapidly changing planet, if we do not help one another?”