Migrant ship sinks; most of those aboard killed

October 22, 2001 Posted: 8:24 PM EDT (0024 GMT)

GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- A boat carrying 400 migrants sank in the Java Sea Friday night, and all but 44 of the passengers are believed to have drowned, the International Organization for Migration said here Monday.

Spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said the boat left Java last Thursday morning with 421 people aboard. He said 21 people demanded to be let off and were left on an island.

Later, he said, the captain radioed that the engine had failed and the boat was sinking.

He quoted survivors as saying that the boat went down quickly, and that they were picked up Saturday morning by local fishermen.

Chauzy said the ultimate destination of the boat was unknown but migrants frequently use such voyages as a way of reaching Australia.

He said most of the passengers were Iraqis but there were also Iranians, Palestinians, and Algerians on board.

Every year thousands of migrants pass through the waters of southeast Asia in their search for better lives. Many who leave Indonesia head for Australia.

In August a Norwegian freighter rescued more than 400 people from a sinking Indonesian ferry off the coast of Christmas Island. Australia refused entry to the asylum seekers and they were eventually sent to New Zealand and to the remote Pacific island of Nauru.

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