A boat carrying migrants to Australia capsized on Friday, killing at least 21 people. Indonesian authorities said 28 survivors were rescued but local media are reporting that over seventy are feared dead, including children.
The refugees from Lebanon and the Yemen drowned off the Indonesian coast as they tried to reach the Australian territory of Christmas Island en route to the mainland.
It’s the latest in a string of similar disasters, despite Australia’s tough new immigration measures, designed to deter asylum seekers. About 400 boats have arrived in Australia in the last 12 months.
Immigration is a sensitive political issue in Australia and the country’s hardline policy has provoked criticism from human rights groups. Amnesty International has accused Australia of shirking its moral obligations to help the world’s most vulnerable people.
New conservative prime minister Tony Abbott, who won his election campaign on the back of a strong anti-immigration stance, meets with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta on Monday. He wants backing for plans to enable Australia’s navy to turn migrants away and stop people traffickers operating from Indonesian ports.
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