Asylum seekers’ boat sinks off West Java coast


A boat carrying around 200 asylum seekers from Bahrain, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka reportedly sank off the coast of Cianjur regency, West Java, as it was bound for Christmas Island, Australia, on Tuesday night.

As of Wednesday afternoon, as many as 187 survivors were brought to safety, while eight others died and the remaining migrants were still missing.

Some survivors were temporarily accommodated at Sukapura village hall in Cidaun district, Cianjur.

West Java Police chief Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said the asylum seekers were heading to Christmas Island in Australia when bad weather hit the boat.

“There were around 200 people in the boat, while the boat itself was built for 150 passengers,” Martinus said.

Such incidents involving boats packed with asylum seekers heading to Australia often occur off West Java and are a long-standing issue for the provincial administration.

West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan expressed his concern and called on the immigration office to tighten its control over immigrants coming to the province.

West Java Law and Human Rights Agency head I Wayan K. Dusak said many immigrants used tourist visas and usually asked assistance from local residents, who could help transport them to Australia.

Generally, Dusak said, there were immigrants who had no travel documents, while some others possessed expired documents.

Immigrants with expired documents would be dealt with by embassy offices and later sent back to their respective countries, while those who had no documents would be handled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).


The Indonesian government has decided to stop issuing visas on arrival to Iranians because many of them have been using the country as a transit point for seeking asylum in Australia.

This has also been a problem for Australia. The recent incident comes days after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd changed Australia’s refugee policy so that people who arrived by boat would no longer be allowed to settle there.

Rudd said the latest boat incident highlighted the need for the policy shift. “Too many innocent people have been lost at sea,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday as quoted by Associated Press.

“The asylum seeker policy we’ve adopted is about sending a very clear message to people smugglers that if you try to come to Australia by boat you will not be settled in Australia. That is all about destroying the people smugglers’ business model,” Rudd added.

The Australian government previously said all newly arrived refugees would be resettled in Papua New Guinea, though their claims for asylum would still be assessed in Australia and at detention camps in Papua New Guinea and the tiny island nation of Nauru.

The move, condemned by refugee and human rights advocates, is an attempt to stem the flood of asylum seekers traveling to Australia from ports in Indonesia and Malaysia. Hundreds have died attempting the journey in recent years, Associated Press reported.

Separately, in South Sulawesi, rescuers were searching for two missing residents, identified as Jaisa, 35, and Mardiah, 11 — after their boat sank in Pangkep waters on Tuesday at around 2 p.m. due to high waves and strong winds.

The accident also reportedly claimed one life, while the other five passengers survived.







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