A BOAT carrying an estimated 150 asylum seekers capsized yesterday off Christmas Island with four people confirmed dead, including one young boy.
The boat set off from Indonesia, and was reportedly carrying asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Border authorities confirmed two naval vessels had rescued 144 people from the water after the capsize.
‘At approximately 18:00, the vessel began to lean to one side and passengers began jumping into the water. At approximately 18:40, [HMAS] Albany reported that the vessel had rolled and capsized,” Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said.
“A total of six life rafts were deployed” to rescue the passengers as well as an overhead Orion aircraft and small boats from the naval vessels, he said, thanking rescuers for their “tough, hard, difficult and dangerous work”.
Customs said it had now suspended rescue efforts, as there were no signs of life.
The Australian newspaper estimates almost 45,000 so called ‘boat people’ have arrived in Australia’s north since Labor came into power in late 2008.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to announce changes to Australia’s migration policy in the lead up to the election in November.
Australia’s irregular maritime arrivals
- 2010: 134 boats carrying 6,535 passengers
- 2011: 69 boats, carrying 4,565 passengers
- 2012: 278 boats carrying 17,202 passengers
- 2013 (figures up to 16 July): 218 boats carrying 15,182 passengers
(Figures from Australia’s Department of Immigration; passenger numbers exclude crew)