11 June 2012

Australian immigration authorities rescue Sri Lankan asylum seekers

Australian immigration authorities have rescued 32 asylum seekers off the coast of the Cocos Islands after their boat crashed into rocks on Saturday night.

Australia visa

The boat carrying 32 asylum seekers was rescued by Australian immigration authorities off the coast of the Cocos Islands.

The asylum seekers, believed to be from Sri Lanka, ran into difficulty after apparently attempting to beach the vessel on the Cocos Islands, forcing Australian immigration authorities to intervene.

The 32 people were detained on the Cocos Islands, which is a territory of Australia, before they can be taken to Christmas Island to be given health and security checks before they can begin their claim for asylum and potentially an Australia visa.

"Either they've tried to beach and they've stuffed the boat up or the bat was stuffed up before they tried to beach," said John Clunies-Ross, whose pub is being used to temporarily house the asylum seekers.

The incident has once again led to criticism from opposing politicians in Australia; opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison clams the government has not been honest about the Australian Federal Police's (AFP) involvement in such rescue operations.

"The AFP do not have maritime assets in that region capable of such an interception and reports from locals in the region are there was no vessel to intercept, as it had been wrecked on a reef with the passengers forced to swim to safety where they were later rescued," said Mr Morrison.

While Immigration Minister Chris Bowen's office refused to comment on the rescue operation, the government is obviously keen to avoid another disaster similar to one which saw hundreds drown after their boat sank in December 2011.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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