June 29, 2014
Staff on Christmas Island have been told to prepare for the possible arrival of asylum seekers, according to Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan.
An asylum seeker vessel made contact with marine rescue authorities on Thursday night claiming to be leaking oil 300 kilometres west of Christmas Island.
The ABC understands that vessels is from southern India and has more than 150 people on board, including 37 children.
Ms MacTiernan said people onboard two asylum seeker boats were picked up by border protection authorities on Saturday evening.
She said staff on Christmas Island were “on standby waiting for instructions”, but do not know whether the asylum seekers will arrive on Christmas Island or “be taken elsewhere”.
“They’re saying that two boats have been intercepted and the ship on which they’re being loaded is in Christmas Island waters,” she told the ABC.
“And everyone is on standby waiting for instructions as to whether or not the boat is going to be unloaded here or whether or not it’s going to be taken elsewhere.
“They’re hearing the people are from south India but they’re not clear whether or not they’re originally Sri Lankan.”
Earlier on Saturday a man named Duke told the ABC he was onboard an asylum seeker boat in trouble about 250 kilometres north of Christmas Island.
However, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not confirm whether the Government was aware of the boat.
“It is our standard practice, as you know under Operation Sovereign Borders, to report on any significant event regarding maritime operations at sea, particularly where there is safety-of-life-at-sea issues associated,” he said.
“I’m advised that I have no such reports to provide … if there was a significant event happening then I’d be reporting on it.”
Boat has 37 children onboard, according to asylum seeker
Duke said the group are mostly Tamils from Sri Lanka, who left from India two weeks ago.
He said the group is determined to make it to Australia to seek asylum.
“[There are] 32 [women] and we have 37 children, 253 kilometres … from Christmas Island,” he told Saturday AM.
“We are refugees. We come from Sri Lanka – we stayed in India and we are unable to live there. That’s why we are coming to Australia.”
The man said the vessel was being buffeted by wild weather and needed assistance.
“It’s heavily raining also. We didn’t get help anywhere. The wind is blowing in high speed, and [there are] huge waves,” he said.
“The children and infants are also in the boat … We can see some boats lights, maybe fishing boats.”