CANBERRA: Rescue authorities have given up hope of finding any survivors after an asylum seeker boat carrying at least 55 people to Australia capsized in the Indian Ocean.

The boat's submerged hull was spotted by air Friday, and bodies, life jackets and debris have been spotted near Christmas Island, an Australian territory nearer to Indonesia than to the mainland.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority called off the air and search Sunday night based on medical advice that no one could have survived that long in the sea, a statement said.

The authority and border protection officials decided Monday not to mount a new search to recover the bodies due to other demands on resources.

Border Protection Command said its vessels and aircraft were busy with ''a range of high priority operations'' near Christmas Island and elsewhere. It did not detail those operations.

''Our priority is responding to other vessels which may require assistance and preventing any further loss of life,'' a border protection statement said.

''If operations permit, Border Protection Command will, where it remains feasible and without further risk to life, endeavour to recover any bodies which may be relocated,'' it said, adding the likelihood of recovering bodies would diminish over time.

The capsized boat was seen 120 kilometres northwest of Christmas Island, which is 500 kilometres south of Jakarta and 2,600 kilometres from Perth, the nearest major Australian coastal city.

A total of 13 bodies have been spotted, but ships did not interrupt the search for survivors to retrieve the dead.

The boat was stationary but appeared to not be in distress when it was first spotted by the crew of an air force plane on Wednesday afternoon, officials said. It was then 52 kilometres north of Christmas Island, where Australia runs a detention camp for asylum seekers.

The air crew counted 55 people on deck. They were mostly men, but also women and children, officials said. Their nationalities are unknown.

The maritime authority's spokeswoman, Jo Meehan, said there could have been as many as 60 asylum seekers and Indonesian crew aboard.

Hendra Sudirman, chief of operations at Jakarta's Search and Rescue Agency, said he had no information about the reported asylum seeker boat.

He said a separate group of 48 migrants were spotted four days ago on Pecang island in the Sunda Strait. The group, which included Iranians, Afghans and Somalians, was rescued along with two Indonesian crewmen. The asylum seekers were then taken to an immigration detention center in Banten province on the western end of Java island.

Because of Christmas Island's close proximity to Indonesia, it's the most popular destination for asylum seekers who pay people smugglers to take them from Indonesian ports to Australia in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.

Many of the asylum seekers come from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. Several of the voyages have ended in tragedy with the loss of hundreds of lives as the boats have come in increasing numbers in recent years.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (5)

Amit-Atlanta-USA
June 10, 2013 3:28 pm

Strangely, there is no mention of Pakistan at all in this discussion. It's a known fact that nearly 80% of the asylum seekers come from Pakistan, even though that may not have been the case with this tragedy.

Having said that until & unless Australia enforces strict guidelines to deport EVEYONE of these people back to where they came from, or put them in detention camps on Christmas island, with ever giving them a chance to migrate to the Australian mainland this problem will never end.

No country can, will or should deal with a menace like this with people thronging their shores by breaking the law. It has been happening big time in Spain, the US, Italy, Greece and all over Europe where people from Islamic countries (mainly) are migrating enmasse to avail welfare benefits, and also carrying with them the scourage of religious radicalism & even terrorism, jeopardizing the security, economic & social well being of these nations........forever.

amaullah rabbani
June 10, 2013 6:02 pm

@Amit-Atlanta-USA: and a million comes from India. India si the biggest exporter of asylum seekers, just for your information.

My Say
June 11, 2013 12:33 am

Dear Amit, instead of trolling around, why don't you use your time wisely and help your fellow nationals. If Pakistan/Pakistanis are bothering you SO much, you should consider doing something about it. You're filled with hate, get a doctor to check you out.

Srini
June 11, 2013 6:54 am

@amaullah rabbani : For your information,India is not the biggest exporter of asylum seekers.But Yes, India is the biggest exporter of Skilled and Brainy people to Entire world from all fields mainly from IT, Engineering and Medical fields. Most of the Asylum seekers are from Muslim countries because most of them are and war torn countries.

Srini
June 11, 2013 7:16 am

For your information,India is not the biggest exporter of asylum seekers.But Yes, India is the biggest exporter of Skilled and Brainy people to Entire world from all fields mainly from IT, Engineering and Medical fields. Most of the Asylum seekers are from Muslim countries because most of them are and war torn countries.

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