NEW YORK (Nov. 4, 2011) — The United Nations refugee agency today called on the international community to cooperate more closely to deal with irregular migration after the deaths of at least nine people, apparently asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia, when their boat capsized off the coast of Indonesia.
The victims of Tuesday’s sinking included four children, and an unknown number of other passengers on the boat remain missing, according to Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
He told reporters in Geneva that there were an estimated 60 to 100 people aboard the overloaded vessel, which sank in bad weather and rough seas off the coast of western Java. Indonesian naval forces have rescued 47 people so far.
The boat was bound for the Indonesia province of Nusa Tenggara Timur and then Australia, and the passengers included Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani nationals.
“The incident underlines once again the desperate steps that people are willing to take in their search for protection or a better future,” said Mr. Mahecic.
“It also adds urgency to UNHCR’s calls to the international community to cooperate more closely in addressing irregular migration and providing protection and solutions to refugees, thus averting the need for individuals to undertake such perilous journeys by boat.”
UNHCR, working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is providing medical assistance, food, clothes and psychological support to the survivors of the capsizing. The agency said it is also working with Indonesian authorities to determine whether any survivors will seek to claim asylum.