Eight dead as asylum-seeker boat sinks near Malaysia.. Yesterday 54 ethnic Rohingya from Burma were rescued off North Aceh.

source from The Australian, 2 Feb 2012

ANOTHER asylum-seeker boat with passengers bound for Australia has sunk, with reports eight people are dead and 18 have been rescued.

Marine police official N.Kalai Chelvan said the boat was heading to Indonesia’s Batam island early yesterday when it sank in choppy waters.

He said the boat was carrying a group of men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq who were likely trying to reach Australia through Indonesia.

As news of the deaths emerged, it was reported that more than 50 asylum-seekers from Burma were also rescued yesterday after their boat broke down off North Aceh in Indonesia.

Chelvan said 14 men aboard the first vessel were initially believed to have drowned but officials later verified that only eight bodies were recovered from the sea.

They included four Pakistanis and one Afghan, while the identities of the other victims have not been established.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said in a statement that the incident underlined the government’s reasons for seeking regional arrangements to break the people smugglers’ business model and deter asylum-seekers from taking dangerous boat journeys.

”It is why the Government worked so hard to develop its cooperative arrangement with Malaysia,” the statement said.

”As we have consistently pointed out, the absence of a disincentive for boat journeys to Australia will mean people will continue to undertake these dangerous journeys.”

It is being reported the boat was ferrying asylum-seekers from Malaysia to Indonesia where they were to depart for Australia.

In yesterday’s second incident, 54 ethnic Rohingya from Burma, believed to have been heading to Australia, were rescued by Indonesian fishermen off North Aceh.

The asylum-seekers, some in poor health, were picked up after fishermen spotted their wooden vessel being buffeted by large waves.

One of the fishermen involved in the rescue, identified as Jamali, said the boat had been damaged and its engine had broken down.

He said the boat had been spotted about 12km out to sea. The fishermen had been working in the area.

“They saw a vessel full of passengers just being washed back and forth on the waves. The boat’s passengers were calling out for help, food and water,” he told reporters, according to the Jakarta Globe newspaper.

“Their condition was very concerning,” Jamali said. “A number of them were weak from dehydration and hunger.”

In December about 200 asylum-seekers on their way to Australia were killed after their boat sunk off the coast of Java in Indonesia. Just 47 of those on board survived.

Conditions on the journey from Indonesia to Australia are at their worst at this time of year, as the monsoon season is in full swing.

In December 2010 about 50 asylum-seekers were killed when their boat smashed into rocks off Christmas Island.

This year 300 asylum-seekers have arrived in Australian waters on five vessels, double the amount that arrived in the same period in 2011.

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