They and their families were en route to Christmas Island. They were rescued by the Norwegian container ship the Tampa. Lawyers fought for them in the Australian court. Politicians argued to keep them out of the country.
Two weeks after their rescue, as planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, these faceless, nameless boat-people turned from troublesome “queue jumpers” into potential terrorists.
But New Zealand took the children and their families when Australia would not.
The Tampa affair was the start of Australia’s debate over asylum seekers arriving by boat.
For 12 years, the argument has grumbled with each new batch of boats, getting louder again as another federal election looms.