SIEV-X stands for Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X (the X means “unknown”). It is the name, coined by Tony Kevin,cite book |last= Kevin |first= Tony |authorlink= |coauthors= | title = A certain maritime incident : the sinking of SIEV X. |publisher= Scribe Publications |year= 2004 |location= Carlton North, Victoria |pages= 24 cm. xiii, 306 p. : ill., maps |url= |doi= |id= | isbn = 1920769218] commonly used to refer to a dilapidated Indonesian fishing boat that was en-route from Sumatra to Christmas Island carrying over 400 asylum seekers. It sank in international waters on 19 October 2001, just south of the Indonesian island of Java, killing 353 people, mostly women and children. The tragedy was politically controversial in Australia, as it occurred during an election campaign at a time when asylum seekers and border protection were major issues.


The SIEV-X incident occurred during the 2001 Australian Federal election campaign. The Tampa affair had focused national attention on the issue of border protection and boat people. Prime Minister John Howard had made plain his policy of preventing people smuggling into Australia via Indonesia. The Howard Government had issued instructions to the Australian Federal Police AFP) to prevent any illegal immigrants from reaching Australia. The AFP set about a campaign of disruption by organising people smugglers to operate with overcrowded and dangerous boats, in the hope of ensuring any boats that did leave Indonesia would not reach Australia.


On 18 October 2001, a small, unnamed 19.5m by 4m Indonesian fishing boat departed Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, with 421 passengers onboard. On the 19th the boat sank in a storm in geographically Indonesian waters about 70km south of Java. The area was legally international waters but within both Indonesia's EEZ and Indonesia's internationally-designated zone of search and rescue responsibility. It also fell inside a temporary Australian border protection surveillance area around the Australian external territory of Christmas Island (which is some 1700km from mainland Australia). This latter designation was an internal planning and operational tool used by the Australian authorities to deter people smuggling. It had no legal validity, and conferred no responsibility, in international law, although any Australian ships and aircraft operating there would have acted to save lives if they had known SIEV X was in peril of sinking and where it might have been.Fact|date=April 2008 At the time no Australian aerial reconnaissance flights were mounted because of the storm, the nearest Australian vessel was hundreds of kilometres away, there was confusion about various people smuggler boats, and it was thought this particular SIEV had probably returned to Indonesia.Fact|date=April 2008

Approximately 146 children, 142 women and 65 men died. On the 20th 44 survivors were rescued by an Indonesian fishing boat, the Indah Jaya Makmur. A 45th survivor was rescued about twelve hours later by another boat, the Surya Terang. [ [ The 45th Survivor ] ] .

enate Select Committee

On 20 February 2002, the Australian Senate Select Committee inquiring into ‘A Certain Maritime Incident’ met for the first time. Its primary task was to investigate the children overboard affair, however its terms of reference also included the job of investigating “operational procedures observed by the Royal Australian Navy and by relevant Commonwealth agencies to ensure the safety of asylum seekers on vessels entering or attempting to enter Australian waters”.

The committee investigated the SIEV-X sinking, and concluded that "... it [is] extraordinary that a major human disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event, without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision making circles." While no government department was found to be to blame for the tragedy, the Committee was surprised that there had been no internal investigations into any systemic problems which could have allowed the Australian government to prevent it from occurring.


Some of the alleged unanswered questions regarding the SIEV-X tragedy are chronicled at the website [] , and in Tony Kevin’s book “Certain Maritime Incident: The Sinking of SIEV X”, published in August 2004.

IEV X Memorial

For the past three years Steve Biddulph has been working with the Uniting Church in Australia to build a suitable memorial for victims and survivors of the SIEV X sinking. On Sunday 15 September 2006, a 'temporary' memorial was erected at Weston Park in Canberra. The memorial, designed by Mitchell Donaldson of Queensland's Hillbrook Anglican School consisted of 353 white poles, all decorated by schools, churches and community groups across Australia. While the ACT Government was supportive of the memorial with Chief Minister Jon Stanhope opening the memorial, the Federal Government, tried to stop the memorial being constructed. The National Capital Authority claimed that it was not an approved structure.


ee also

* Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel

External links

* []
* []
* [ Select Committee for an inquiry into a certain maritime incident]
*cite web | title=SIEV-X: Right of reply | work=Sydney Morning Herald | url= | accessdate=December 4 |accessyear=2005 : Criticism of Tony Kevin's SIEV-X Analysis
* [ SIEVX & the DFAT Cable]
* [ SIEVX Reading Guide]
* [ SIEV X Memorial] With commentary from some prominent Australians on the tragedy.
* [ SIEV X people smuggling trial now in its third week]
* [ SIEV X Case Study] A Case Study for Secondary Schools that investigates the Sinking.
* [ SIEV X: Sixth Anniversary of a Tragedy,] Tony Kevin on the Sixth Anniversary, October 19, 2007

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