Three people died but another 157 suspected asylum seekers were rescued after their boat sank off the southern coast of Indonesia, officials said on Wednesday after earlier reports that as many as 60 may have perished. The latest case of a boat sinking while attempting the perilous journey came five days after Australia slammed the door on would-be refugees with a deal to send all boat arrivals to Papua New Guinea for assessment and eventual settlement. The debate over refugees and people smuggling has long been a hot political issue in Australia and has intensified with an election looming in a few weeks. Earlier on Wednesday, News Ltd and other Australian media reported that the boat was carrying as many as 170 people and that up to 60 were feared dead or missing. Indonesian emergency authorities however said later that 160 people were on board and that three had died, two women and a 12-year-old boy from Sri Lanka. The boat capsized late on Tuesday after hitting a reef off the coast of Sukapura, about 270 km (170 miles) south of the capital Jakarta, said Rochmali, who like many Indonesians uses one name. Since 2001, about 1,000 people have died while trying to reach Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island in unseaworthy boats. More than 15,000 asylum seekers have arrived by boat in Australian territory this year.
July 24 - Survivors are rescued after a boat filled with suspected asylum seekers sank off the souther coast of Java in Indonesia. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). ( Transcript )
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