Asylum-seeker boat in troubled waters:
Australia rejects claim
Australian Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison has refused to
confirm claims by refugee activists that a boat carrying Tamil asylum
seekers is in trouble off Australia.
Refugee activists said on Friday that a 21-metre boat, carrying 153
asylum seekers, which had left India, had sprung an oil leak and was
300km west of Christmas Island.
Morrison said there were no significant incidents at sea to report.
“I am advised that I have no such report to provide to you today,” he
said yesterday. He did not confirm if there was a boat, if it was in
Australian waters, or if the government had taken any action.
A spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul said there
were concerns the boat would run out of oil before it reached Christmas
Island and that the government would try to divert the asylum seekers,
or not help until it was too late.
Morrison said the Australian government’s border protection policies
had not changed and the government did not comment on reports relating
to Operation Sovereign Borders unless there was a significant event.
“There is no significant event for me to report at sea,” the minister
Rintoul said the boat was carrying 153 asylum seekers, including 32
women and 37 children. He said Morrison’s attitude to the problem was
“cavalier and dismissive”. At 11am (AEST) yesterday, the boat was still
170 nautical miles away from Christmas Island, and was likely to run out
of oil soon, he said.
“People (on board) are saying it’s not an emergency right now (but)
once the engine’s not working the boat becomes extremely vulnerable,”
Rintoul was quoted as saying. “We don’t want to see the government
waiting until it’s too late.
We would expect the authorities to be acting urgently to ensure that
they either rescue these people, or provide them with the resources they
need to keep the boat afloat and mobile.”
Rintoul, who said he was in frequent contact with people on board,
said Morrison, should be less concerned with protecting his no-comment
policy, and more about saving lives at sea.