Australia’s Guantanamo isn’t offshore: it’s in Melbourne

Source abc, 12 April

Update 7.50pm: A group of 14 asylum seekers has been rescued by fishermen in Indonesia after their boat sank in the Sunda Strait on its way to Australia, but at least five others are believed to have drowned.

There are also fresh details about the unfolding tragedy with one of the survivors revealing that boat actually sank on Wednesday, and not this morning as initially reported by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Habibullah Hashimi, one of 14 men plucked from the water by fishermen off the coast of Sukabumi in West Java, said he was in the water for about 24 hours before help finally came.

The 29-year-old said there were 72 people aboard the vessel. All were ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan.

At least five asylum seekers had perished, Mr Hashimi said.

The death toll could rise further.

“The ship just broke,” he said.

“We saw about five people dead. They were in the water.”

Mr Hashimi’s group had linked arms as they struggled to survive.

“The sea kept moving us around,” he said.

Mr Hashimi, who was this afternoon recuperating in Bogor, also confirmed that the boat sank at about 8am on Wednesday.

The development came after a spokeswoman from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority initially reported that a boat may have sunk in the Sunda Strait at about midnight (3am AEST) on Friday.

“A people-smuggling vessel may have sunk in or near the Sunda Strait around 3am AEST today. Some passengers may have been rescued by a fishing vessel,” the spokeswoman said earlier today.

The information was in turn passed on to the Indonesian national search and rescue agency BASARNAS.

But BASARNAS was unable to locate the area where the incident was believed to have occurred, prompting a scramble for information.

Provincial search and rescue offices in Jakarta and Lampung on the island of Sumatra also had little idea of what had happened, or where to look for survivors.

“We don’t have the coordinates for the area where we could search. Do you have that information? Please share it with us,” an officer with the Jakarta search and rescue office said.

“We only received information from BASARNAS that it’s in south of Sunda Strait and they’ve been rescued by local fishermen. But where is it? We’re now contacting local ports and others if they have such information.”

And Indonesia still hasn’t launched a rescue mission because the location of the sunken vessel hasn’t been found.

The search and rescue authorities were criticised last August when more than 100 asylum seekers drowned when their boat foundered in the Sunda Strait.

An aerial search was not launched until more than six hours after a distress call was received by the AMSA.

It was almost 24 hours before the first survivors were pulled from the water.

Hundreds of asylum seekers have perished in recent years while making the perilous crossing from Indonesia to Christmas Island.

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