wiki globe

Australia says little hope of more survivors from boat wreck

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

SYDNEY, Dec 17, 2010 (AFP) – Australia said Friday there was little hope of finding more survivors from a people-smuggling boat which smashed into Christmas Island two days ago and that the full death toll may never be known.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard said divers had recovered two more bodies, bringing the official death toll to 30, as air and sea searches continued for survivors after their wooden fishing boat sank early Wednesday.


“We do need to face the grim reality that it is becoming increasingly unlikely, an increasingly remote possibility, that survivors will be found at this stage,” she told reporters in Sydney.


“It remains unclear exactly how many people were on the vessel and we may never know that number with precision,” she said, adding that three Indonesian crew were among the 42 survivors.


The wooden fishing boat crowded with up to 100 Iraqi, Kurdish and Iranian asylum seekers and their families was dashed against jagged rocks in dangerous seas at the remote Indian Ocean outpost early on Wednesday, throwing all on board into the churning water.


Of those pulled alive from the sea, five were evacuated to Perth for medical treatment while the rest were being treated on Christmas Island, which lies 2,600 kilometres (1,612 miles) from the mainland.


Australia has a policy of mandatory detention of boat people and uses Christmas Island as its main processing facility to determine whether they are legitimate refugees.


While boats are often picked up as they attempt to make their way to the island, Gillard said authorities had not been aware that this particular boat was approaching.


“The people smuggling vessel was not sighted until it was sighted from Christmas Island itself by residents,” she said, adding that Australia’s sea patrols covered a massive area.


“If we look at the amount of ocean that lies to our north, the area that we seek to keep under watch, the area in which we are most likely to see asylum seeker vessels, that area is more than 1.4 million square nautical miles.


“Consequently I think people would understand, with such a big area, that it is possible for a boat to get to Christmas Island and not be detected.”


The tragedy has sparked renewed debate on Asia’s people smuggling trade, which has brought more than 5,000 asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to Australia this year, mostly on unseaworthy vessels from Indonesia.


Gillard said that Australian authorities were working closely with the people smuggling task force from the Indonesian National Police, but did not specify where she believed the boat had come from.


Indonesian police said there was no criminal element to the boat wreck, while Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said Jakarta had no comment on the latest loss of life involving asylum seekers in the waters between Java and the Australian mainland.


Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to get tough with the smugglers during a visit to Australia earlier this year, and Gillard raised the issue when she visited Jakarta last month.


Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government would stick to its strategy of attempting to create a regional processing centre, possibly in East Timor, aiming to break the people-smuggling rings operating in Asia.


Australia has said Wednesday’s accident will be the subject of a criminal investigation and a coroner’s probe.

d
Source: SGGP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: