Siva’s Story, Indonesia

Siva* is a 24-year-old ethnic Tamil who was an aspiring accountant in eastern Sri Lanka. After years of harassment and intimidation he decided to leave his home.

“I thought if I stayed in the country, I would be killed. So I decided to leave by boat.”

Twice he was abducted by unknown men, who wrongly accused him of links to the rebel Tamil Tigers and demanded he hand over weapons he did not have. He escaped to another city, but his captors continued to harass his mother back home.

“I didn’t care where I went, I just wanted to save my life.”

He paid some smugglers more than US$2,200 for what they said would be a nine-day voyage to Australia. But Siva and 60 other passengers ended up spending 47 days at sea after their engine failed mid-way.

“We had food and water for the first 15 days. Then we drank sea water and tried to catch fish. Still, two men died and their bodies were thrown into the sea. One day a ship passed and hit us, but it did not stop to help. No one expected to reach shore, we thought we would all die.”

After nearly seven weeks at sea, they were found by fishermen and taken to Sumatra in Indonesia.

“I don’t regret coming because in Sri Lanka, my life was also in danger. I wasted 24 years of my life because of the problems in my country, I would like to study if I have a chance. I must stay alive and live peacefully.”


Text by UNHCR/Vivian Tan

* Name changed for protection reasons

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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