December 10, 2013
At least three people have drowned when a fishing boat carrying 30 asylum seekers heading for Australia capsized off the West Java Province after its engine failed.
Reuters Newsagency says one of those who died was a two-year-old child.
It says the passengers were mostly Iranian and ethnic Rohingya who said they were stranded at sea for nearly three hours off Ciawi Beach before being saved by local authorities and fishermen.
One of survivors, Jamil, said that the group was making its way to Australia.
He said the group bought the boat from locals.
“They give us a boat and they give us a bad engine and the engine failed. They are not sorry for us,” he said in broken Bahasa.
About 400 boats carrying asylum seekers have made their way to Australia over the past year and about 45,000 asylum seekers have arrived since late 2007, when the former Labour government relaxed border policies, eventually tightening them again in the face of a voter backlash.
The issue has been a priority for the new Coalition conservative government. Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged that there has been a spike in asylum seeker boat arrivals since late November.
Four boats, carrying a total of 162 asylum seekers and six crew, have been intercepted in the past 10 days.
Also last week, 27 asylum seekers arrived undetected on Christmas Island.
Australia’s Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island is a frequent destination for asylum seekers, who travel by often crowded boats from Indonesia, with the help of people-smugglers.