April 15, 2013
More asylum seeker boats have been intercepted in Australian waters. Picture: Daniel Wilkins Source: The Australian
TWO more asylum-seeker boats have been intercepted in Australian waters amid confusion over the over the fate of almost 100 refugees on board up to two vessels that capsized last week.
Australia distanced itself from search and rescue efforts on the basis the one capsized boat it was able to confirm was in Indonesian waters.
But the family of an Afghan man thought to be on a boat that sunk on Friday reportedly called for Australia to help search for his relative.
Zabihullah Kamal told the ABC his 63-year-old father, Abdul Aziz, was onboard and that a survivor had contacted him to say he and Mr Aziz were sitting together when the boat got into trouble in the Sunda Strait off West Java.
The boat was believed to be carrying 72 people, with about 14 rescued, at least five drowned and the other 53 missing.
A second boat sinking last Wednesday was unable to be confirmed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
But local reports in Indonesia say at least one person was rescued on Thursday and said they were on a boat, thought to be carrying about 20 people, that sank on Wednesday.
The developments come as a a total of 21 boats have successfully made the journey to Australia in the first two weeks of the month in the latest wave of arrivals.
The government yesterday reported that a vessel carrying 75 people was given assistance by HMAS Albany east of Christmas Island on Saturday night.
Another boat carrying 25 people was also assisted by HMAS Maitland in the same area on Saturday.
A total of 244 boats carrying more than 14,700 people have now been intercepted under the government’s offshore processing policy since it was announced in August.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare yesterday said the passengers of both intercepted vessels were transferred to Christmas Island for initial checks.
“People arriving by boat without a visa after 13 August 2012 run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country,” he said.
Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said there was now “complete breakdown of Australia’s border protection system”.
“At this point last year there had been 25 illegal boat arrivals, this year there has already been more than three times this amount, despite 2012 seeing the greatest number of boat arrivals ever,” he said.
Reports late on Saturday out of Indonesia said rescue agency BASARNAS was still scrambling for information including a rough search area before launching an operation.
An AMSA spokeswoman said Australia had not had any role in any search and rescues.
“AMSA hasn’t had any role in the search rescue and operation,” the spokeswoman said.
“It is in the Indonesian search and rescue and zone.”