November 07, 2013
A GROUP of more than 50 asylum seekers has been rescued off the coast of Indonesia after earlier issuing a distress call while en route to Australia.
Indonesian authorities have confirmed a distress call was received from a boat, carrying about 56 people, which had reported engine trouble in the early hours of Thursday morning.
A spokesman for the Indonesian search and rescue agency, BASARNAS, said the boat was about 60 nautical miles off the south coast of Java when contact was made with authorities.
The official said that discussions were underway to organise offloading the asylum seekers in Indonesia, after earlier suggesting they would be escorted to Christmas Island.
It’s understood HMAS Ballarat initially responded to the distress call and that an Australian Customs vessel later became involved in the operation.
A spokesman for Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the incident.
“Australian authorities are liaising with their Indonesian counterparts in relation to a vessel that has requested assistance as the vessel is within Indonesia’s search and rescue zone,” the spokesman said in a statement on Thursday night.
It was expected more details would be provided at the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders media briefing on Friday.
Both Customs Border Protection and Australian Maritime Safety Authority declined to comment.
The Abbott government has ended the previous government’s practice of detailing asylum seeker boat arrivals as they happen.