JAKARTA : A boat carrying migrants to Australia sank off the Indonesian coast on Friday, killing at least 21 people, Indonesian police said.
The latest disaster to strike refugees using Indonesia’s southern coast to try to reach Australia will cast a shadow over a visit to Jakarta on Monday by Australia’s new conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott whose tough stance on immigration was at the heart of his election campaign.
“The information we have is that there are 21 victims and 25 survivors. The passengers seem to have been from the Middle East and various countries,” police official Cecep Suhendra said by telephone from Cinajur on the main island of Java.
Media said the motor boat sank off the south coast of Java near the town of Tegalbulued, about 190 km south of Jakarta.
Abbott has made Indonesia his first overseas destination since winning a general election on Sept. 7.
He will meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to seek support for his plan to have Australia’s navy turn migrants away and stop people traffickers operating from Indonesian ports.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and other lawmakers have criticized Abbott’s offer to pay Indonesian villagers for intelligence on people-smuggling gangs.