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Tampa refugees ask to go home: “It’s less inhumane than Australia”

[Edition 45] CHRISTMAS ISLAND, Friday: The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren’t nearly as hostile as Australia.

[Edition 45] CHRISTMAS ISLAND, Friday: The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren’t nearly as hostile as Australia.

After almost a week stranded off Christmas Island, with no hope of Australian help, the refugees have learnt that Afghanistan and Iran are extremely humane countries by contrast.

Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly told the captain of the Tampa that he’s not prepared to let the ship dock in Australia until after the federal election. He’s ordered the ship to linger offshore for as long as it takes for his approval rating to eclipse the Opposition’s.

Mr Howard said that, like Harold Holt before him, he’s willing to stake his Prime Ministership on a sustained challenge out at sea.

Earlier the government’s Defence Minister Peter Reith attempted to blame the freighter’s inability to dock on the inefficiency of Australian wharves.

Mr Reith later deployed a number of Australian SAS officers on to the vessel, where they sought to subject the refugees to a series of traditional naval bastardization rituals.

Initial military plans to airlift the refugees out of Australian waters by helicopter were put on hold when it was revealed that the assigned pilot was Shirley Strachan.

Round-the-world yachtswoman Isabelle Autissier had also tried to help ferry the passengers, before she herself got into trouble, and had to be rescued by the already crowded Tampa.

It’s believed the marooned refugees have requested additional facilities on board the ship, such as a shuffleboard court and a large open deck for coits.

Some of the asylum seekers have considered making their new permanent homes on the Tampa which, given the rate of diplomatic progress, might be their only option.

Indonesia last night remained steadfastly unwilling to negotiate. President Megawati said that even though the refugees were rescued in Indonesian waters, from a sinking Indonesian boat, provided by Indonesian people smugglers, the matter has nothing whatsoever to do with Indonesia.