Uncertain future for Afghan child who saw his father drown

Omid Jafari's eyes are haunted. In his 10 years he has seen horrors most people hope not to see in a lifetime.
Just over a week ago, Omid watched as his father, uncle and cousin silently drowned with more than 100 other asylum seekers, while help was still 24 hours away.

''On Wednesday night, most people were alive,'' Omid's cousin Jawad Sherzad said, translating for the boy.
Omed Jafari in Jakarta.
Omed Jafari in Jakarta. Photo: Michael Bachelard
''But when it was the morning, they had gone … when it was night and cold, he saw his uncle, father and cousin just drown. They were right in front of him.
''What was shocking was that there was not any screaming. Most people were so shocked they didn't say anything. It was silent.''
Omid was the smallest and youngest Afghan survivor from a boat that sank off the coast of Java last week.
He is staying in a safe haven in Jakarta and his cousin and uncle Abbas Sherzad arrived yesterday from London.
Omid is tall and thin, his shoulders narrow, his skin still blistered from exposure. He speaks in a tiny voice but his gaze is intense.
He said that those who died in the 36 to 48 hours they spent in the water were the ones whose life jackets were faulty, or like his father, never had one. His own life jacket filled up with water and began dragging him under, but he was light enough to cling to an inner tube brought on the journey by another man.
The group, which authorities now believe numbered up to 170, instead of the original 150, were doubly betrayed by the people smuggler they had trusted their lives to.
Two boats he had provided sank under them.
The first boat lasted about 20 hours after they set off from the coast of Java about 2am last Tuesday before it started to sink. Some on board rang the people smuggler, Haji Ghulam, and demanded another boat.
He provided one and the asylum seekers clambered onto it, mid-ocean, hoping it would take them the hundreds of nautical miles to Christmas Island.
But it was much smaller than the first boat.
''At the beginning people couldn't fit on it, so they put them on by force. They were pushing them on,'' Omid said through his cousin.
This second boat lasted just three hours before it too began taking on water and sinking.
''We saw some fishermen from far away, but they didn't come to help. They saw us but they turned away,'' Omid said.
''Their boat was like our boat, but they turned away.'' After about two hours, the boat broke up and disappeared beneath the waves. Its passengers had time to send several distress calls to Australia and Indonesia.
What puzzles Omid most is why those calls were not answered.
It was not until early the following morning that a merchant boat finally found the first of the survivors and raised the alarm.
What happens to Omid now is uncertain. His uncle, whose brother died in the sinking, is a British resident, but cannot take Omid back with him because he is not his son. Omid's mother, who still lives in Kabul, cannot be contacted. Indonesia does not want to put him in detention with the other survivors, who are all adults or teenagers.
For the moment he is safe but the owners of the place where he is staying do not want to reveal its location. They are as puzzled as everyone else about what to do.
And Omid cannot say. ''All he says is he wants to help his family,'' his cousin Jawad Sherzad said.
But the most important of those family members are beyond the help of anyone.

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