Australian rescue vessels aided an overcrowded boat near Indonesia carrying as many as 162 asylum seekers after it sent out a distress signal during bad weather.
Authorities said the vessel is en route to Christmas Island as of Wednesday night, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Australian rescue ships took on the asylum seekers, placing them on two separate vessels and the agency said they “were successfully transferred” with no loss of life.
“Upon arrival at Christmas Island, the passengers will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established,” the agency said, adding that three passengers on board had “medical requirements.”
In the past year, several ships with asylum seekers have capsized, killing more than 300.
“Initial advice that we received this morning was that the vessel had heeded that advice and was heading north back towards Indonesia,” said Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, according to the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. “That has proven through the course of the day to be not correct.”
Clare said the vessel is amid high seas, with waves of more than 13 feet high.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in a meeting on Tuesday, discussed the matter of people smuggling and boats carrying hundreds of asylum seekers.
“I welcomed the strong cooperation we have with Indonesia on people smuggling, including Indonesia’s law enforcement efforts against people smuggling syndicates,” Gillard said Tuesday, according to a transcript.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.