Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 June 2014





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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 said.

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.

The Guardian


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