Another boat with asylum seekers sinks in Indian Ocean

9 June 2013 06:31 am - 8     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Thirteen people were confirmed dead and dozens missing after a suspected people-smuggling boat with nearly 60 onboard sank off Australia's remote Christmas Island, authorities said Sunday.
 
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said aerial surveillance of a debris field of wood and life jackets had spotted 13 bodies and a full-scale hunt was under way for survivors involving 15 ships and 10 aircraft.
   
"This is a search and rescue, trying to find people alive," Clare told reporters, describing the incident as "another terrible tragedy, another terrible reminder how dangerous these journeys are".
   
When the drifting boat was first spotted by a border protection aircraft on Wednesday, Clare said officials "identified approximately 55 people on the deck of the vessel, mostly adult men but also a small number of women and children".
   
The navy vessel HMAS Warramunga was sent to intercept the boat on Thursday but it had disappeared, and aerial searches turned up no sign until Friday, when Clare said a "submerged hull" was seen from the air.
   
The Warramunga arrived on site to find wood and life jackets floating, with the first body sighted late on Friday and another 12 found by Sunday morning.
   
Rear Admiral David Johnston, head of border protection, said the "complex and time-consuming" task of recovering bodies would not begin until the search for survivors was exhausted.
   
"We believe from (medical) advice that we are still in the window where survivability is possible," Johnston said.
   
Johnston said sea conditions had been favourable and when the vessel was initially sighted on Wednesday "nothing about (the passengers') demeanour suggested that this boat was in distress".
   
He added that Indonesia's maritime authority Basarnas was "certainly aware of the incident" but was caught up with a number of other vessels closer to the Indonesian coastline.
   
HMAS Warramunga had also been diverted to assist another suspected people-smuggling boat off Christmas Island, which issued a distress call to Australian police overnight, Clare said.
   
Hundreds of refugees have died in asylum-seeker boat accidents on the perilous sea journey from Indonesia to Australia in recent years, the latest in March when a boat carrying 95 capsized, killing two people including a small child.
   
Another vessel disappeared without a trace in the Sunda Strait in April with 72 on board and there were fears of a further sinking in May when 28 life jackets washed up on the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
   
Australia is struggling with a record influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat from Indonesia and Sri Lanka, with numbers expected to top 25,000 in the 12 months to June 30 despite punitive policies banishing refugees to the remote Pacific.
   
It is a sensitive political issue expected to dominate the campaign ahead of September's national elections, with the conservative opposition promising tough new measures including towing people-smuggling boats out of Australian waters.
   
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Indonesia would never agree to the opposition's towback plan, describing it as a "fantasy".(AAP)
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  Comments - 8

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  • Kiwi Monday, 10 June 2013 02:04 AM

    Do we have anymore professionals left?

    Fassey Sunday, 09 June 2013 11:08 AM

    Foolish people they never learn lessons. If they make use of the money they spend for these illegal migration, they can certainly lead a good life in SL. " A bird in the hand worth two in the bush"

    OMG Monday, 10 June 2013 07:17 AM

    These people are willing to risk their dear lives apparently escaping from a tyrant. No one with a brain would take such a risk just to ease their lives as you seem to believe.

    Jackie Seaunier Sunday, 09 June 2013 12:00 AM

    This is absolutly horrible a via DM Android App

    ANTON Sunday, 09 June 2013 07:13 AM

    OUR PROFESSIONALS HAVE NEVER HEARD THE SAYING PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE AND NOW THE TIME HAS COME TO PLAN PROPER PRECAUTIONARY ACTIONS.

    Namal Baby Sunday, 09 June 2013 07:25 AM

    when living under a dictatatorship gets so tough, people try desperately for greener pastures.

    sanju Monday, 10 June 2013 07:50 AM

    Quite right. It is time prospective boat people were appraised of the reality of the situation. Of the danger, drowning and disaster that awaits them. And even if they make it, the rejection at that end.

    Nodrog Sunday, 09 June 2013 09:58 AM

    Don't confuse these people who are leaving for an easy life on the dole for oppressed people.


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