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Boat tragedy brings swap deal back in focus

November 2, 2011

Fifteen asylum seekers drowned en route to Australia and there are now renewed calls to look at the Malaysian refugee swap deal again.

CANBERRA: A tragedy where 15 asylum seekers drowned when their boat en route to Australia capsized has put the Malaysia swap deal back in the headlines.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Wednesday morning urged the coalition to reconsider its opposition to the controversial refugee swap deal with Malaysia.

“This is a terrible tragedy but it is a fact that when you have more boats coming to Australia you will see more deaths,” Bowen told ABC Radio.

“We didn’t adopt the Malaysia arrangement because it was politicallyeasy or it was convenient, quite the opposite. We adopted it because we knew that this was the sort of arrangement that was necessary to avoid more deaths at sea, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen.”

The Gillard government was forced to abandon its Malaysian people swap deal because of a parliamentary impasse last month.

Indonesian authorities have confirmed that eight bodies have been recovered but have grave fears for those missing since in the boat sank after leaving a port in Central Java in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

At least one child is believed to be among the dead.

Search and rescue efforts were suspended late on Tuesday but were set to resume on Wednesday morning.

Authorities have confirmed that 57 people have been rescued. But it’s feared the death toll will rise to more than 20, with about 15 asylum seekers still missing.

The boat, which left from Cilacap in Central Java with a crew of three, was carrying about 70 asylum seekers who had arrived in Indonesia from the Middle East.

It capsized in rough seas near Nusakambangan Island between West Java and Central Java about 5am local time (0900 AEDT) on Tuesday after taking on water for about two hours.

Another boat, carrying 92 asylum seekers and two crew, was intercepted off the Australian coast on Tuesday.

It was the sixth to arrive since the federal government’s deal with Malaysia was abandoned.

Agencies


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