Added by Erik West on August 21, 2013
A boat carrying just over 100 asylum seekers sank approximately 220km (138 miles) north of Christmas Island on Tuesday. Rescuers from Australia’s navy recovered 106 people and reported five are missing and presumed dead.
Survivors of the sinking say they knew of five people that remained onboard the ship when it sank – the five did not make it into the water surrounding the ship along with the 106 people that were rescued.
The navy became aware of the ship in distress when it received a call for help from someone onboard the ship. The nave responded by deploying the HMAS Parramatta to the scene.
An official aboard the HMAS Parramatta said, “The vessel was upright but partially submerged…a number of people were sighted in the water.”
The search was called off after an extensive search for more survivors found no other survivors or bodies in the water.
About 1,000 people since 2001 have died while attempting to reach Christmas Island – a favoured destination for boats carrying refugees from Indonesia due to its proximity.
The recently reinstalled Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, enacted a plan last month whereby asylum seekers arriving by boat would not receive permanent resettlement in Australia and instead be transferred to Papua New Guinea or Nauru for processing. Approximately 18,000 people have arrived in Australia by boat since January.
The tragedy comes at the same time as more than 600 migrants were rescued by off the costs of Italy and Sicily by the Italian navy and coastguard during the past 24 hours. Among the rescued are more than 200 from an overcrowded boat near an island off of Italy; 300 people, including a baby from another boat off the coast of Sicily; and another 110 were also rescued near the coast of Sicily. Authorities say nearly 8,000 migrants have landed in Italy since January.