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Christmas Island: Australia asylum seekers toll rises

22/06/2012
Christmas Island like a prison: Amnesty

Christmas Island like a prison: Amnesty (Photo credit: publik16)

Prime minister says those still missing following Christmas Island boat crash may never be found.

The number of asylum seekers believed killed when their boat smashed into rocky cliffs along an Australian island has risen to 48.

Thirty bodies have been recovered since a rickety boat packed with Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish asylum seekers smashed into the rocks on Christmas Island last week and broke apart in stormy seas.

Forty-two people were rescued from the churning surf, but officials believe many more were swept away in the strong currents, or sank to the ocean floor.

Rescue workers have been interviewing survivors to help determine exactly how many people were on board so they can clarify how many are still missing.

It appears about 90 asylum seekers were on the boat, based on the latest information from the Australian police.

Chris Bowen, the Australian immigration minister, said on Saturday that the search for survivors had switched to a search for bodies in the waters surrounding remote Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

“All [the survivors] on the island are now out of hospital and living on one of the island’s three camps,” Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas reported from Christmas Island.

“These arrivals are becoming more and more regular on Christmas Island. An average of two boats are intercepted every week,” Thomas said.

Australia is a prime destination for asylum seekers hoping to start new lives after escaping from poor, war-ravaged countries.

Asylum seekers who are intercepted by officials are generally sent to a controversial immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, or other detention centres on the Australian mainland.
»Australia asylum seekers toll rises

Asylum Seekers Boat Capsizes North of Australia’s Christmas Island – 200 Believed Aboard

With a sad familiarity, another overloaded boat, filled with desperate asylum seekers trying to reach Australia’s Christmas Island, has capsized in Indonesian waters. Up to 200 people are believed to have been aboard the vessel when it capsized. Indonesia’s search and rescue authority BASARNAS is coordinating the search with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has been quoted as saying that said about 40 people were spotted on the upturned hull, others were in the water and up to 75 others may be dead. ”We have grave fears for the remainder,” he said.

The current capsize with a probable signification loss of life is, sadly, nothing new.
In December of 2010 an estimated 50 refugees died when their boat struck the rocks off Christmas Island’s Flying Fish Cove.
In December of 2011, more than 200 refugees went missing and were presumed dead when their boat bound for Christmas Island sank off Indonesia.
In April of this year, 129 Afghan refugees were rescued from a sinking ship also bound for Christmas Island.
»An aslum seeker boat has capsized nearly 200 kilometres off Christmas Island.

* Christmas Island Detention Centre

* Sri Lanka: New heaven for asylum seekers

* Navy intercepts boat carrying 123

* As 108 drowned, they cried: ‘Pray for us’

* They called and called, but got no answers

* Australia’s bungles and cover-ups exposed

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