September 23, 2020

Australia: Asylum seekers’ boat capsizes; 4 die

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In this photo provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, a boat carries asylum seekers 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean hours before capsizing Wednesday, June 27, 2012. Four people are believed to have died and 130 others were rescued after the crowded boat capsized and sank Wednesday, less than a week after more than 90 people drowned on a similar journey. (AP Photo/Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

Australian officials said Wednesday that 130 survivors, most of them reported to be women and children, had been rescued after a ship full of apparent asylum seekers trying to reach Australia capsized in the Indian Ocean.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Authority said that there were 134 people aboard the vessel and that four had died in the accident, which occurred about 115 miles south of the main Indonesian island of Java – roughly halfway to Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory that has become a magnet for desperate immigration attempts in overcrowded boats.

The capsizing was the second major accident in those waters involving asylum seekers in less than a week.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement that the survivors had been picked up by an Australian naval patrol boat and several merchant ships that responded to the stricken vessel’s distress call early Wednesday. As recently as Sunday, the navy was searching the same area for survivors or bodies from another rickety boat that capsized last Thursday. Some 90 people are thought to have died in that accident; about 110 were rescued.

The episodes are the latest in a long line of maritime disasters involving asylum seekers trying to reach Australian territory, where they can seek refugee status. Many asylum seekers are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka and other poor or war-torn countries.

In December 2010, about 48 people died when their boat broke apart against Christmas Island’s rocky coast in front of horrified onlookers. Last December, about 200 died when their overcrowded ship sank off Java.

Australia has struggled for years to find a policy that will deter such risky attempts. For a time, refugees were held on Christmas Island or other remote locations for long periods of processing, but that practice was largely scrapped in 2007. As the numbers of boat arrivals rose in recent years, Julia Gillard, the current prime minister, proposed sending asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing, but the plan was rejected by the High Court, and negotiations over a replacement plan have broken down.

For more on this story go to:

www.sfgate.com/world/article/Australia-Asylum-seekers-boat-capsizes-4-die-3668691.php

 

 

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