This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
How far can you swim in open water? Apparently, this guy thought he could do it for 570 kilometres.
An Algerian national was reportedly stranded on an Indonesian island after attempting to swim to Australia from East Timor. Haminoumna Abdul Rahman attempted the feat after his East Timorese visa expired and he ran out of money.
But bad weather conditions and ferocious waves cut his journey short. According to local Indonesian media, fishermen spotted Haminoumna floating in the seas of Kletek, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia on January 11. He nearly died and was extremely weak by the time he was brought to shore.
The 31-year-old had been living in Dili, the capital of East Timor, since December 2019 on a tourist visa. He quickly ran out of funds and was unable to extend his visa.
Haminoumna told local law enforcement that he was heading towards Suai, East Timor, where he planned to begin the roughly 570-kilometre swim to Australia.
Although Haminoumna claimed to be a tourist, it’s widely known that many Afgan, Iraqi, Iranian, and Algerian migrants have attempted and failed to travel to Australia from East Timor. In the past decade, East Timor and Indonesia have become known as “transit” nations among undocumented immigrants who have Australia as their end destination.
Many of these migrants enter Indonesia through unofficial channels. Data from the Australian Immigration Department show that only 9.3 percent of the 119 Afghan, Sri Lankan, and Myanmarese immigrants between 2010 and 2012 entered Indonesia legally. Many of them pass through small ports in Sumatra and continue their journey toward Java, where they must choose between boarding a boat in East Java or continuing to East Nusa Tenggara or East Timor.
Indonesia’s position along the Arab-Australia sea route has also made it a go-to destination for migrants who are denied entry to Australia. A survey conducted with 119 “in transit” immigrants in Indonesia revealed they favoured Indonesia due to its friendly citizens, relatively peaceful environment, the possibility of marrying a local, and lax immigration laws.
Indonesia is also home to countless people-smuggling networks, that promise migrants a safe arrival in Australia by boat.
These networks operate underground with a complex chain of command, making it difficult for law enforcement to identify the industry’s biggest players. Many Indonesian sailors working on the migrant boats don’t even know who their bosses are, or who owns the ships they operate.
And many such sailors and other low-level accomplices have paid the price for their involvement in smuggling people. Between 2008 and 2011, over 180 Indonesian teenagers were jailed in Australia for manning the ships carrying migrants.
The trip is no easy feat for the migrants, either, and can be dangerous. Migrant ships heading toward Australia sank in 2009 and 2013, leaving dozens presumably dead.