Tamil asylum seekers stranded in Australian waters, Abbott deflects questions

RefugeesPrime Minister Tony Abbott has deflected questions about reports of a leaky asylum seeker boat 300 kilometres off Christmas Island.

Fairfax Media says it has spoken to two people claiming to be on the boat with 151 others. One of them, a woman identifying as Tamil, said it left southern India on June 13. The Refugee Action Coalition says there are 37 children on board the vessel, which made contact with marine rescue authorities on Thursday night.

Mr Abbott brushed off questions from the ABC about the reports on Friday night, saying “we will be doing what we normally do in respect of Operation Sovereign Borders”. He would not say whether assistance would be sent to the vessel.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the Government does not confirm border protection activities unless they involve extreme risk of safety to life at sea.

Refugee advocates, who say they spoke to people on the boat on Thursday, believe it has an oil leak rather than the vessel itself leaking.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she had been told the boat was carrying 153 asylum seekers including more than 30 children. “They’ve come from India and they’re not far from Christmas Island,” she said. “They are saying that the boat is in trouble. They’re obviously coming to Australia to seek asylum and are calling for help.

“Now, if the boat is in trouble, as per the reports, then the Australian Government needs to act quickly, to ensure that there is no further sinking of the boat and there’s no fatalities.”

Senator Hanson-Young says any decision to turn the boat around is likely to create issues for the Government.”This boat cannot be turned back to Indonesia, it hasn’t come from Indonesia,” she said. “And if the Prime Minister is considering creating a new diplomatic row with India then he needs to be very clear about that with the Australian people.” (ABC News)

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