The People Smuggler

The People Smuggler by Robin De Crespigny is the biography of Ali Al Jenabi, known to some as a people smuggler (and condemned), he is known to others as the “Oskar Schindler of Asia” (and praised and revered). You may have heard of him as his name and case was heavily reported by the news and media. He became a target and featured heavily under “the spotlight” when the Australian government introduced new laws about people smuggling and border control and made an example out of Ali Al Jenabi. “Boat people”, refugees, illegal immigrants, border control and people smugglers are topics which have been saturated by the media spotlight in the last decade. The often feature heavily in political campaigns and agendas and the core human rights issues get lost in a game of political chess. Enter this book…..which gives the reader an alternate point-of-view.

Ali Al Jenabi is a man who has lived an extraordinary life. An Iraqi by birth, he and his family suffered greatly during the time of Saddam Hussein. Imprisoned in his own country, he fled to Kurdistan. This then become another reason for him to be wanted. Not safe anywhere in his own country he attempted to legally seek refugee status via the United Nations but was refused. In order to remain alive, he was left only with the option of illegally entering another country. He tried Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, gathering more and more experience being “smuggled” and often being ripped off and betrayed by people he ends up yet again in Iraq and in grevious danger. Eventually he finds himself in Indonesia. A long way from his family, but not a long way from his problems. His family are still in the middle east and despite being geographically removed from them he as the “head of his family” and is therefore responsible for their safety and for providing for them. In a desperate attempt to seek safe passage for his family, he drawers on his experience of being smuggled and he becomes the “smuggler”.

The author Robin De Crespigny is quoted as saying “The epic breadth of his (Ali Al Jenabi) story is so great, with its cast of thousands, military conflicts, desperate mountain treks, boats on high seas, and a journey across two continents and at least six countries, each with its own unique culture and language” perfectly captures the flavour of this tale. Al Jenabi’s experience is more astounding than I can ever imagine and more traumatic than any human should endure.  It is very real and very raw, and even more astounding when you think that he is one of many people who “flee” and they each have their own stories to tell. This biography casts a new shadow of compassion upon the subject of illegal immigrants and people smuggling. It gives the reader a whole new experience of the ordeal. Fascinating reading.