No Evidence of Vessel Near Life-Jackets in Suspected Asylum-Seeker Accident


Sydney. Aerial surveillance of a remote Indian Ocean area near where 28 life jackets were found four days ago revealed no evidence of a ship wreck, an Australian government spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The discovery of life jackets on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands off Western Australia on Friday has prompted fears that an asylum-seeker boat has again struck trouble while making the perilous journey to Australia.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare said federal police were still probing the origin of the life jackets found on the remote territory which is closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland.

“A P-3 Orion aircraft was tasked on Friday afternoon to undertake surveillance of the region,” she said in a statement.

“No evidence of a vessel has been identified. Investigations are ongoing.”

Hundreds of asylum-seekers have drowned at sea over the past few years while trying to reach Australia, mostly via Indonesia, and news of the discovery prompted calls for a search of the area from refugee advocates.

Spokesman for asylum-seeker support group Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, said the find “almost definitely means that a boat has gone down.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) Tuesday questioned whether authorities had conducted a search for any survivors of a possible shipwreck.

“If they’d fallen off a cruise ship, it would have been deemed worthy of investigation,” ALA president Tony Kerin told Australian Associated Press.

“If there are any of those number out there on some raft somewhere, they’re going to be losing faith pretty quickly.”

The Australian Federal Police has said it is common for debris and other items to wash up on the east coast of the Cocos, including from Indonesia, which is 1,100 kilometers away.

It would not confirm a report on Monday that one of the life jackets contained a small amount of Iranian currency.

More than 10,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Australia this year alone, many from Iran and Afghanistan.







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