March 27, 2013
Two boatloads of asylum seekers were brought to shore on Christmas Island on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the tragedy that left a woman in her 30s and a young boy dead.
The latest boats contained 188 immigrants – and take the tally of boats to arrive at Christmas Island since Friday to 11..
All up, 3111 passengers have arrived in Australia seeking asylum this year, compared with 1302 in the first full three months of last year.
If the trend continues, there could be more than 35,000 asylum seekers arriving by boat by the end of the year, more than double the record intake of 2012.
The asylum seekers have been transferred to the Christmas Island detention centre, which currently holds more than 1500 people.
The pair who died on Monday had been part of a group of 96 who went into the water about 14 nautical miles from the island as their boat sank during a rescue attempt by Customs officials.
Another three asylum seekers – two women and a six-year-old boy – were flown to Perth for medical treatment.
They are now in a stable condition.
The customs vessel Ocean Protector remained moored off Christmas Island after helping transfer the group to shore on Monday.
The Refugee Action Coalition has called for a full inquiry into the deaths.
”There are serious question to be answered,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition.
”It would seem that despite the extensive experience with asylum boats, that Australian navy and customs ships are still not properly prepared to deal with potential accidents in such a situation.”
The Ocean Protector had been shadowing the asylum boat for hours. There was plenty of time to assess the stability of the boat and any difficulties that might be encountered considering the number of people on board and the sea conditions at the time.
”We need to know what instructions were given to the boat; whether they were told to stop, and if they were told to stop, did the [boat] give instructions about how to do that safely. Was the [boat] positioned to provide as much protection as it could?
”How far away was the [boat]? It would seem that some elementary safety procedures may have been overlooked.
”We are also calling on the Australian government to show compassion and ensure that the asylum seekers from this boat are immediately moved into community and their processing begun without delay,” Mr Rintoul said.