August 31, 2012
ASYLUM-seekers pulled from the ocean after their boat sank have been taken to an Indonesian port, despite previous survivors of such tragedies being transferred to Australia for processing.
The move comes as a massive search continues for up to 95 remaining passengers from the boat carrying 150 people, which is believed to have sunk in the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra, after issuing a distress call early on Wednesday.
So far 54 asylum-seekers have been rescued, some of whom would have been in the water for up to 30 hours.
At least some are Afghans and they include two women and a young boy. One body was also taken to Merak.
Authorities hold grave fears for the rest and hopes faded today that anyone else would be found alive.
In an apparent sign the Gillard government is toughening its stance on border protection, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the 54 survivors picked up by the Australian navy and merchant ships would be handed to Indonesian authorities and taken to the port of Merak, in western Java.
This will include asylum-seekers picked up by the HMAS Maitland.
“All vessels will transfer the survivors to Indonesian rescue vessels early this morning,” an AMSA spokeswoman said.
“All survivors, including three with injuries, will be taken to Merak, Indonesia for medical attention.”
The decision to take survivors to Indonesia is in stark contrast to previous moves by the government to bring survivors of boat sinkings to Australia, and follows the toughening of border protection policy by reopening detention centres on Nauru and on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea.
In June a boat carrying around 200 asylum-seekers capsized 120 nautical miles south of Java, with its 110 survivors taken to Christmas Island.
Another 130 asylum-seekers from a separate boat sinking in which four people died were also transferred to Christmas Island in June.
Last month, all 162 people aboard a vessel in distress in Indonesian waters south of Java were brought to Australia for processing.
This story was originally published here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/immigration/no-transfer-to-australia-for-survivors-of-asylum-seeker-tragedy/story-fn9hm1gu-1226462285086