News Column

Asylum-seekers Drown Off Christmas Island

March 25, 2013

Two asylum seekers drowned when the Indonesia fishing boat they were on sank 26 kilometres north-west of Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, officials said Monday.

There were 95 passengers aboard the boat, which was being shadowed by an Australian Customs and Border Protection ship when it went down.

Christmas Island Administrator John Stanhope said everyone alive was picked up and ferried to the island's immigration detention centre.

He told national broadcaster ABC he did not know the nationalities of those on board the vessel.

Authorities did not give a reason for the sinking, which occurred in calm seas and good weather.

Most asylum-seeker boats cross from Indonesia's Java Island. Christmas Island is the nearest landfall.

There are 1,585 asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Four boats arrived at Christmas Island at the weekend. The Immigration Department said 2,362 asylum seekers had arrived by boat so far this year, compared with 1,259 in the equivalent period last year.

Claims for asylum in Australia rose 37 per cent in 2012 to 16,000, according to a UN report.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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