Asylum-seeker boat sinks off Indonesian coast, 3 dead
The boat, carrying 175 people, all of them Iranians and Sri Lankans, encountered harsh sea conditions and simply broke up, Australian media reported. More than a dozen people are still unaccounted for as search and rescue operation continue.
Two children, ages one and five, were among the dead.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has confirmed an official rescue operation, declining to comment further. “Indonesian authorities are coordinating the rescue of that incident. AMSA is not involved at this stage," the body’s spokeswoman said.Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue (Basarnas) could not be reached for comment at the time.Immigration and refugee policy is a hot topic in Australia, especially with the election coming up in just a few weeks.
The incident comes days after Australia ruled that any refugees
arriving by boat would be redirected without exception to
neighboring Papua New Guinea for individual assessment before
settling there. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a set
of tough new measures on Friday, which he says are aimed at
curbing a steep increase in the number of refugees arriving by
boat from Indonesia, which is known to be a dangerous journey.
More than 15,000 asylum seekers have crossed over into Australian
waters this year alone, sparking a policy debate and a heated
exchange between the ruling Labor government and the opposition,
who accuse it of being too soft on issues of border protection.
The new refugee policy has aroused fierce criticism from human
rights advocates - among them Amnesty International - especially
given that Australian numbers are far below what is witnessed
elsewhere in the world.