Boat sinks traveling to Australia: 22 refugees dead

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Originally published on September 28, 2013

At least 22 migrants, including young children, were killed when their refugee boat sank in waters off the Indonesian coast on Friday (September 27). Twenty-eight people have been rescued, but more than 30 remain missing, with local media saying the death toll could rise to as high as 70.

Reuters reports, "The latest disaster to strike refugees using Indonesia's southern coast to try to reach Australia will cast a shadow over a visit to Jakarta on Monday by Australia's new conservative prime minister Tony Abbott, whose tough stance on immigration was at the heart of his election campaign.

"'All the passengers were from the Middle East. There were people from Lebanon and Yemen. The boat was going to Australia. Their next destination was Christmas Island,' Dedy Kusuma Bakti, police chief in Cianjur, West Java, told Reuters by telephone on Saturday.

"Bakti said 28 survivors had been rescued. Some Indonesian media reported as many as 79 people might have drowned in the incident, although there was no official confirmation of a toll that high.

"Situated in the Indian Ocean not far from Indonesia, the Australian territory of Christmas Island is a frequent destination for refugee boats from Indonesia and a favored route for people-smugglers.

"Indonesian media reported that the motor boat sank off the south coast of Java near the town of Tegalbulued, about 190 km (120 miles) south of Jakarta.

"The steady flow of refugee boats is a hot political issue in Australia, polarizing voters and stoking tension with neighbors like Indonesia and Sri Lanka over hardline border security policies that have been criticized by the United Nations."

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