'Jonah', a refugee who jumped off a ship and swam to shore at Hay Point, contemplates his future overlooking the Pioneer River.
'Jonah', a refugee who jumped off a ship and swam to shore at Hay Point, contemplates his future overlooking the Pioneer River. Lee Constable

Jonah's desperate swim to freedom

A 33-YEAR-old man was so desperate to flee his war-torn country that he jumped off a ship he worked on at Hay Point.

He jumped from the ship at 3.30pm on December 27 and swam for more than an hour until he reached the shore.

He is still in Mackay but has to report to immigration officials in Brisbane by Friday.

The man known as Jonah had planned to find refuge in Australia for two years and promised his family they would move to a safer country in a few years.

He'd worked on the ship travelling around the world for more than a month before he decided to jump overboard.

"I thought I could have died for my freedom while I was swimming," he said.

"I made the decision to jump off suddenly.

"I eased myself down the side of the boat and I started swimming near the jetty because I couldn't get too close to the ship because it had security cameras on it.

"I had to have breaks while I was swimming and as soon as I touched the land I thanked God and said finally 'I'm free'."

Jonah then made his way to the house across the street where an elderly woman helped him.

"She said 'are you all right?'," he said.

" I fell down to the ground and I said 'I need help'.

"That night an ambulance came and checked me and everything was okay.

"Police then came and started questioning me and said they would call Customs."

Jonah said Customs officials then took him to a hotel in Mackay where he stayed the night.

"The owner of the hotel showed me the tickets in the morning that said I had to fly back to my homeland so I tore them up," he said.

Jonah said he had sought refuge at the Mackay drop-in centre the next day.

He said he was concerned about his wife and daughter who were still in the Middle East.

"My country is a man's country, not a woman's country like this," he said.

"It took me over a month to get here on the ship.

"I came here for my family.

"I haven't come here for money, I'm only here for freedom. In my country we can't even speak freely."

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