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Australia bound asylum seeker disaster sparks political debate

by Dominic 25/06/2012 11:59:00
As more and more desperate people flee their home countries in search of a better life in Australia, record numbers of boats are attempting to make the perilous journey from Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Many are bound for Christmas Island but with unpredictable seas and often ill-equipped, over-crowded boats making the journey, disaster remains a permanent, realistic risk.

The latest such disaster occurred last Friday and resulted in the death of an estimated 90 people, thought to be of Afghani and Pakistani origin.

The disaster has had serious political ramifications within Australia and has prompted politicians to consider returning to the discussions which stalled in January over how best to address the Australian immigration situation and drastically reduce the likelihood of another such catastrophe.


Boat carrying 200 hundred asylum seekers capsizes

A search and rescue operation is underway after a boat believed to be carrying 200 asylum seekers capsized off the coast of Christmas Island...read more.

Opposition MP implores party to negotiate after asylum seeker disaster

After another disaster which has seen more people die at sea in a desperate bid for asylum in Australia, a member of the opposition has pleaded with his party to negotiate with the government to prevent a further tragedy...read more.

Search called off as death toll reaches 90

The search for survivors after an asylum seeker boat bound for Australia has been called off after just 110 of the estimated 200 people on board have been found...read more.

Government offers to resume Australian immigration talks

After last week's disaster which saw an Australia-bound asylum seeking vessel capsize in Indonesian waters, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered reopen discussions with the opposing Coalition over how best to address the ongoing asylum seeking problem...read more.




Boat carrying 200 hundred asylum seekers capsizes

A search and rescue operation is underway after a boat believed to be carrying 200 asylum seekers capsized off the coast of Christmas Island.

A spokesperson for Indonesian search and rescue authorities said the boat is believed to have capsized less than 130 miles north of Christmas Island. Australian authorities have requested permission to enter Indonesian air space to assist the operation and cover a wider area in the search for an unknown number of survivors.

"Australia has asked for clearance to enter Indonesian waters for surveillance flights of P3 Orions," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the alert was raised when a distress call was received claiming 100 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were aboard the boat.

However, a spokesperson for the Australia maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) claim the figure is nearer 200.

There is a capsized vessel 120 nautical miles north of Christmas Island, there's believed to be approximately 200 people on board," the spokesperson told AFP.

"The Indonesian search and rescue authorities are co-ordinating the response.

"We can confirm there are survivors but we can't confirm numbers at this stage."

Three merchant vessels and two Australian military ships have reportedly been sent to the site but how long it will take them to reach the site is cause for concern. The P3 Orion fixed wing aircraft is already on the scene.

Authorities are determined to prevent a tragedy similar to other disasters in the same waters which have seen huge numbers of asylum seekers drown.

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Opposition MP implores party to negotiate after asylum seeker disaster

Tony Abbott 

Tony Abbott has been urged 
by his own party to negotiate
with the government.

After another disaster which has seen more people die at sea in a desperate bid for asylum in Australia, a member of the opposition has pleaded with his party to negotiate with the government to prevent a further tragedy.

Talks between the government and opposition over the asylum seeking issue broke down at the start of the year; the government refuses to reinstate some of their predecessors' staunch, albeit successful policies, while the opposition refuses to negotiate legislation which would allow the government's people swap deal with Malaysia, the Malaysia Solution, to pass after it was struck down in the High Court last year.

Meanwhile record numbers of asylum seekers have continued to arrive in Australian waters; already this month more than double the number budgeted for have reached the country. While the rising numbers increases pressure on the country's detention facilities, leading to the risk of the riots similar to those which resulted in a Sydney detention centre being torched in April 2011, immigration advocates have repeatedly stated that a failure to negotiate a solution will lead to a more serious disaster...

...to read the rest of this story, click here.

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Search called off as death toll reaches 90

Waves

The rescue operation has been
abandoned after just 110 of the
200 people
 aboard were rescued.

The search for survivors after an asylum seeker boat bound for Australia has been called off after just 110 of the estimated 200 people on board have been found.

Indonesian authorities received a distress call on Thursday reporting that an asylum seeking boat had capsized less than 130 miles off the coast of Christmas Island.

After Australian authorities requested permission to enter Indonesian waters to assist with the search, reports claimed 40 people clung to the capsized hull of the ship with the rest of the passengers in the water.

Authorities managed to rescue 110 of the passengers, who were taken to Christmas Island for medical treatment; 17 bodies were also taken to the island's detention centre where a makeshift morgue was erected.

The search was called off on Monday while counselling was offered to the survivors.

"Hopefully it will help bring closure to the families who have lost loved ones," said one of the 20 officers brought to the island to help with the operation.

The Australian Federal Police has confirmed it will be conducting a criminal investigation into the causes of the accident.

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Government offers to resume Australian immigration talks

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has
said she is willing to resume talks.
 

After last week's disaster which saw an Australia-bound asylum seeking vessel capsize in Indonesian waters, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered reopen discussions with the opposing Coalition over how best to address the ongoing asylum seeking problem.

An asylum seeking boat estimated to be carrying 200 Afghan and Pakistani refugees contacted Indonesian authorities last week, reporting that the vessel had capsized and the majority of the passengers aboard had gone into the water. Australian authorities assisted with the search and rescue operation but when the operation was abandoned, only 110 of the 200 onboard had been rescued.

The disaster brought the issue of addressing the problem to the fore; discussions on how best to address the problem originally broke down in January and while record numbers of boats continue to reach Australian shores, politicians from both sides of the debate continue to blame each other for the worsening situation.

Julia Gillard's government attempted to pass its Malaysia Solution policy last year. The deal would involve new arrivals, approximately 800, being taken to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 bona fide refugees. However, the policy was struck down by the High Court before it could be implemented, forcing the government to require revised legislation to allow the policy to be put into law.

The Coalition wants to reinstate their much harsher policies which saw boat arrivals drop to almost zero during the previous Howard government. Their policies include issuing a temporary protection Australia visa for bona fide refugees and offshore processing on the Pacific island of Nauru. Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott has said he would make 'turning the boats back' a core policy of his premiership should he be elected prime minister.

The Australian Greens, who also have a say in the issue, have also voiced their opposition to the government's Malaysia Solution, claiming any form of offshore processing violates the country's duties to international law when it comes to the care of refugees. The Greens have proposed allowing more refugees to enter which 'prioritises the safety of life at sea'...

...to read the rest of this story, click here.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

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