Asylum-seeker boat sinks en route to Australia

Rescuers plucked 130 people from the ocean Wednesday after an asylum-seeker boat sank en route to Australia, barely a week after another vessel went down in the same area, killing up to 90.

The rickety ship capsized 107 nautical miles north of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said, adding that one person was confirmed dead so far.

"We have now managed to rescue 130 people," Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare told reporters, adding that one body had been recovered.

"The information that we have is that there were as many as 150 people on the boat -- that leaves many people still unaccounted for. The search and rescue continues."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the incident as "shocking news of yet another asylum-seeker tragedy" as the heat was turned up on Australian politicians to break their deadlock on how to deal with boatpeople.

The incident comes just days after another boat with around 200 people on board went down in the Indian Ocean as it made its way to Australia.

In that tragedy, rescuers managed to save 110 people and 17 bodies were recovered, but no other survivors were found.

Three merchant vessels, including the MV Bison Express, a Philippines-flagged livestock carrier, were on the scene of Wednesday's disaster, which happened in Indonesian waters.

The vessels responded to the AMSA call for assistance and rescued survivors while two Australian navy ships and a spotter aircraft were also helping with the rescue effort in conditions described as "fair, not ideal".

In a statement, Customs said police received a satellite phone call early Wednesday from the vessel and "initiated an immediate response".

Details were passed to the Indonesian rescue authority Basarnas, which said it understood the generator was broken and the boat was taking on water.

A photo posted on the AMSA website showed a small, basic-looking boat crowded with people on its decks, taken by the MV Bison, before it capsized.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said most of the passengers were believed to be Afghans, though this could not be confirmed.

The accident is the latest in a series of refugee boat disasters in recent years, as unseaworthy, overloaded vessels packed with desperate migrants struggle to reach Australia.

Most boats originate in Indonesia, but there has been a recent spike in attempts from Sri Lanka.

Though they come in relatively small numbers by global standards, asylum-seekers are a sensitive political issue in Australia.

Both sides of Australian politics support offshore processing but differ on where it should be conducted.

Canberra clinched a deal last year to send 800 boatpeople to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 of that country's registered refugees in a bid to deter people-smugglers from the dangerous maritime voyage to Australia.

But Gillard's fragile coalition government was unable to pass the required legislation through parliament without the support of the opposition, amid concerns Malaysia was not a signatory to UN refugee conventions.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who supports processing on the Pacific island of Nauru and turning boats back when possible, again ruled out the Malaysian solution Wednesday.

In response, Gillard pushed for a private members bill by independent MP Rob Oakeshott which would allow an immigration minister to designate any nation as an "offshore assessment country" if it was party to the Bali Process.

The Bali Process is a regional cooperative framework for dealing with asylum-seekers involving more than 40 countries.

The bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives after some six hours of emotional debate by 74 to 72 and will be debated and dealt with by the Senate on Thursday.

"We are on the verge of getting the laws we need," Gillard said. "I believe each and every senator should consider this matter deeply overnight."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions
    Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions

    Indonesia on Sunday signalled it was determined to push ahead with the execution of eight foreign drug convicts, despite a growing wave of global condemnation led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. Authorities on Saturday gave formal notice to the eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- that they would be executed by firing squad imminently, along with an Indonesian prisoner. The group have been moved to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, where …

  • Philippines calls on ASEAN to urge China to halt land reclamation
    Philippines calls on ASEAN to urge China to halt land reclamation

    The Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbours to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the South China Sea, but the call failed to raise widespread support ahead of a regional summit. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory …

  • Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea
    Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Philippines on Sunday urged its fellow Southeast Asian countries to take immediate steps to halt land reclamation by China in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, warning that failure to do so will see Beijing take "de facto control" of the area. …

  • Philippines urges Southeast Asia to rally to halt China reclamation in disputed waters
    Philippines urges Southeast Asia to rally to halt China reclamation in disputed waters

    The Philippines on Sunday called on neighbouring Southeast Asian nations to push for an immediate halt to China's reclamation in the disputed South China Sea ahead of a regional summit. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested …

  • President to appeal for Filipina's life at Malaysia summit
    President to appeal for Filipina's life at Malaysia summit

    The Philippine president said Sunday he would appeal for mercy for a Filipina who is due to be executed in Indonesia in two days' time. President Benigno Aquino said he would take the opportunity to seek clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, who is due to be put to death on Tuesday, while in Malaysia for a regional summit Monday. "Once I am there, I will try to speak to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to appeal once more for her case," Aquino said. She was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilograms …

  • U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions
    U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Indonesia on Saturday not to execute 10 prisoners, including two Australians, for drug-related crimes. Indonesia has so far informed seven of the 10 death row inmates, including the Australians and one Nigerian, that they will be executed in a matter of days, possibly as soon as Tuesday. Nationals from Brazil, Ghana and the Philippines are also on Indonesia's death row. A temporary reprieve was granted to a French citizen who will not …

  • Beijing 'poised to take de facto control' of S. China Sea'
    Beijing 'poised to take de facto control' of S. China Sea'

    Beijing is poised to take "de facto control" of the South China Sea, the Philippines warned Sunday, but its call for a robust Southeast Asian response at a regional summit was shot down. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the strategic body of water, but Beijing claims nearly all of it, and its increasingly strident territorial assertions have caused concern in the region and beyond. "(China) is poised to consolidate de facto control of the South China Sea," …

  • US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations
    US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia “pivot” has already seen US Marines rotating through the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options