Australia calls off search for asylum survivors
- 31 August 2012
- From the section Asia
Australia has called off its rescue operation for survivors of a boat carrying asylum seekers that sank near Indonesia's Java Island.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said assistance was ended because there was "no realistic prospect of survivability".
Fifty-five survivors rescued on Thursday have been taken to Indonesia, it added.
Indonesian officials said that they would continue search and rescue.
"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has completed its assistance [in] the search and rescue operation west of Java following medical advice that there is no realistic prospect of survivability," AMSA said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the boat that sunk issued a distress call and said it had 150 people on board.
Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Basarnas, sent two boats and a helicopter to the area but initially found nothing.
The merchant ship APL Bahrain found six survivors in the water early on Thursday and more were rescued during the day.
At least 11 vessels were involved in the search, led by Australian navy ship HMAS Maitland, which rescued 34 survivors, AMSA said.
The survivors have been brought to Merak port in western Indonesia where they will receive medical treatment.
"We couldn't think of anything but how to keep ourselves alive," survivor Muhammad Reza, 30, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. He said he spent $16,000 (£10,127) on the journey.
Of the 55 survivors, three were said to be injured. AMSA said that one body was also recovered during the operation.
It is rare for asylum seekers headed for Australia to be successfully transferred back to Indonesia. Some survivors had pleaded to be taken to Australia, reports said.
The wooden boat they were on is believed to have been ferrying mostly Afghans.
Asylum seekers often target Christmas Island, off Australia's northwest coast, to get to the country. They make the journey from Indonesia in boats that are usually overloaded and poorly maintained.
This is the latest in a number of boats that have sunk in the past year.
In June, a boat with 200 asylum seekers sank near the island - 17 bodies were found and another 70 were feared dead after a three-day search. That was the second boat to sink in a week, reigniting the debate on asylum in parliament.
Earlier this month, lawmakers approved the re-opening of offshore processing camps for asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
The moves are aimed at deterring asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat, amid an increasing number of arrivals.
Australia says it will also increase its intake of refugees to 20,000 a year, from the current 13,750, in line with recommendations by an expert panel.