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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Indonesia-Australia Asylum Seekers Misplaced at Sea

AUSTRALIAN officials were last night frantically trying to ascertain the fate of up to 74 asylum-seekers aboard a stricken fishing boat, after Foreign Minister Stephen Smith conceded reports that the Indonesian navy had rescued the boat were wrong.

Mr Smith's admission came as Indonesian officials expressed frustration over what they described as "inaccurate" information from the Australian Federal Police regarding the boat's supposed sinking.

In a statement released late last night, Mr Smith said an assurance he offered on the ABC's Lateline program 24 hours earlier -- that the boat had been rescued after the AFP tipped off Indonesian authorities -- was wrong.

Mr Smith said his advice was based on reports conveyed by the Indonesians to Australian officials in Jakarta.

He conceded that Australian officials had no idea what had become of the Australia-bound vessel, understood to contain a number of women and children.

Mr Smith's comments mark the latest chapter in an extraordinary rescue attempt, which began with a text message sent by one of the boat's passengers to a contact in Pakistan.

link: Frantic quest for asylum-seekers | The Australian


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