Rescued asylum-seekers in detention as Abbott heads to Indonesia

Paige Taylor
The Australian
September 30, 2013 1:47PM

A NEW group of asylum-seekers has been offloaded at Christmas Island after being plucked from the ocean by naval vessels.

Approximately 81 men women and children disembarked from HMAS Maryborough and HMAS Armidale between 7.30am and 10am local time (9.30am and noon AEST). Those onboard were issued with a Search And Rescue number from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, indicating they were the subject of a coordinated response.

The Australian has been told the asylum-seekers, who appeared Iranian, were transferred into two navy vessels for safety reasons.

The arrivals today follows the sinking of a boat in Indonesian waters on Friday, killing at least 36 and leaving dozens more missing.Indonesian authorities are now conceding the search operation is about recovering the dead rather than finding anyone else alive. Four more bodies, including those of two children, were found on today, bringing the toll to 36 dead and authorities say more than 20 people are missing, feared drowned.Just 28 asylum seekers have been found alive since the boat, which was carrying about 80 people from Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, broke apart near a beach in the district of Agrabinta in West Java on Friday morning.

The Lebanese foreign ministry has confirmed there were 68 Lebanese, including children, on board the ill-fated vessel.

The latest tragedy in waters between Indonesia and Australia is the first known fatal attempted crossing under the Coalition government.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is under pressure at home to stem the flood of asylum-seekers as he heads to Indonesia for talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono which appear set to be dominated by migration issues.

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Indonesia has expressed concern over Mr Abbott's "tow-back" plan, which involves the Australian navy intercepting and forcing back Indonesian fishing boats crowded with asylum seekers. Mr Abbott is expected to meet with Mr Yudhoyono later today.


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