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Refugee boat disappears, only handful survive

Refugee boat disappears, only handful survive
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There are fears for the lives of more than 140 asylum seekers after a suspected refugee boat disappeared en route to Australia.

Only six people, reported to be Afghan men, are known to have survived so far, picked up by a merchant ship.

The survivors were spotted 75 kilometres south-west of the main Indonesian island of Java. The rescuers reported that there were women and children aboard the stricken vessel.

Australia’s home affairs minister Jason Clare told a news conference: “Australian authorities and Indonesian authorities have been working as hard as they possibly can to find these people, but don’t underestimate how hard it is to find people in the middle of the sea.”

Indonesia is a frequently-used departure point for asylum seekers bound for Australia, but 300 have died since last December alone.

Australia has signed a deal with the tiny republic of Nauru in the South Pacific to establish processing camps to deter the people smugglers.