106 rescued after asylum seeker boat sinks north of Christmas Island

Australian navy ships rush to help those aboard capsized boat in Indian Ocean

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The Independent Online

Australian sea rescuers pulled more than 106 people, thought to be asylum seekers, to safety after their boat sank in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday

The vessel sank 220km (140 miles) north of Christmas Island, where Australia operates a detention camp for asylum seekers.

An Australian navy ship hurried to the scene after the Australian Maritime Safety authority (Amsa) received a call for help from someone on board.

HMAS Parramatta arrived shortly after midday AEST, confirming that the vessel “was upright but partially submerged“.

The Customs and Border Protection agency said in a statement that plucked 106 to safety. Two people had minor injuries.

The search and rescue effort was still underway on Tuesday afternoon but it is unclear whether more people were missing. Amsa initially estimated 105 were aboard the boat when it capsized.

Christmas Island, situated approximately 500km (310 miles) south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta is a popular destination for asylum seekers. Many pay smugglers to take them in dangerous boats to Australia. Hundreds have died attempting the treacherous journey in recent years.

The Australian government, which aims to discourage such journeys, announced in July that it would no longer accept asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Instead, those who come by sea have their claims evaluated and those deemed to be genuine refugees can be resettled in Papua New Guinea or the tiny Pacific Island nation of Nauru.