Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Five drown as asylum boat capsizes - Brisbane Times

Up to five asylum seekers are believed to have drowned after their boat capsized off Christmas Island on Tuesday.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a request for help from a person on board the boat on Tuesday, about 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island,  in an area believed to be in Australian waters. A customs plane spotted the partially-submerged boat shortly after noon.

By 3.30pm, 106 people were recovered from the water. But at 6.30pm on Tuesday night AMSA called off the search.

Information from rescued passengers suggested as many as five people were unaccounted for and are believed to have gone down with the vessel. Their bodies had not been found.

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The navy's HMAS Parramatta was joined by a merchant vessel in conducting the rescue operation.

The deaths at sea come as the federal government faces a legal challenge to its  resettlement plan, which it says would mean no asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat would be resettled here.

This is the first reported boat crisis in Australian waters since Labor announced its new asylum seeker policy in late July.

It comes after two boat disasters last month, where a baby boy and four people died in two separate incidents. In June, 13 people died in another disaster.

The government has claimed that boat arrivals have fallen by as much as 30 per cent since the Papua New Guinea plan was announced, although a Fairfax Media analysis  showed the drop was less than 20 per cent.


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