Refugee boat sinks on way to Australia, 21 dead: Indonesian TV

JAKARTA Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:03am EDT

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - A boat carrying asylum seekers to Australia, most of them from the Middle East, has sunk off the Indonesian coast killing at least 21 people, Indonesian television reported on Friday.

Metro TV said 25 people survived. Officials were not immediately available for comment.

The politically charged issue of asylum seekers has become a sore point in relations between Australia and Indonesia.

The latest accident, the second in recent months, comes ahead of Monday's official visit to Indonesia by new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

He earlier sought to play down suggestions that his government's ramping up of border security to deter asylum seekers was creating a rift between the two neighboring countries, calling it a "passing irritant".

(Reporting by Rieka Rahadiana; Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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