SYDNEY, June 28, 2014 (AFP) – Refugee campaigners said Saturday that a boat carrying 153 asylum-seekers was in trouble off a remote Australian island, but the government said there were no significant incidents at sea to report. The 72-foot (22-metre) boat carrying mostly Tamil asylum-seekers, including women and children, left India two weeks ago and was 175 nautical miles west of Australia’s Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, the Refugee Action Coalition said.
“We are refugees. We come from Sri Lanka — we stayed in India and we are unable to live there. That’s why we are coming to Australia,” a man who claimed to be onboard told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The man, who only gave his first name as Duke, said there were 32 women and 37 children on the vessel which would be, if it reaches Christmas Island, the first asylum-seeker boat to reach Australia in six months.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to confirm or deny the reports, saying the government had not changed its policy of only commenting when there was a significant incident to report.
“It is our standard practice under Operation Sovereign Borders to report on any significant events regarding maritime operations at s