NOT everything is black and white and author Robin de Crespigny hopes her book will dispel some of the myths and the demonisation of people smugglers.
Born and raised on a farm near Lake Bolac, the award-winning writer and filmmaker will be in Warrnambool on Monday to discuss her book which tells how a man escaped Saddam Hussein’s Abu Ghraib prison and later became known as the Oskar Schindler of Asia taking hundreds of asylum seekers by boat to Australia.
Ms de Crespigny told The Standard that Ali Al Jenabi was an Iraqi refugee who became a people smuggler to get his own family to safety.
He was put on trial in Australia for people smuggling and later jailed.
Once released, he was placed in Villawood detention centre in Sydney. He has been found to be a legitimate refugee and has been cleared by ASIO but he has not been granted a visa.
“He is in limbo hell as he calls it,” Ms de Crespigny said.
She said Ali fought in the resistance army against Saddam Hussein and said he couldn’t return home.
“When he went to trial, it all went against the government. He was not portrayed as the heinous criminal they wanted him to be,” she said.
“He smuggled his whole family to safety and 500 other asylum seekers. Ninety-nine per cent of those asylum seekers have been found to be refugees.
“But he’s the only one paying for it.”
Ms de Crespigny said during the three years she worked on the book she came to know Ali as a very moral and very responsible person.
“He has a lovely sense of humour,” she said.
“He is kind and incredibly generous.
“We only hear the one version. It’s not all black and white.
“Here is a really decent man who has been treated so unjustly.”
There were plans to adapt the book into a feature film but Ms de Crespigny said she was now considering a mini-series.
Following the publication, Ms de Crespigny won the 25th Human Rights Award for Literature in 2012.
The People Smuggler won the Queensland Literary Award and was one of three finalists for the Walkley Book Award. It has also been short-listed for the Waverly Library Award for Best Literature and the Stella Award
Ms de Crespigny said the awards were fantastic but it was more important that people got to see an alternative view.
“It has been read by people who never would have (read a book like this) before and it’s affected their attitudes on asylum seekers,” she said.
Ms de Crespigny will talk about her book at the Warrnambool Library on Monday at 7pm. Bookings are essential on 5559 4990.