Confusion over nationality of boat people

There was confusion today over the nationality of the people in a boat which capsized off Australia’s Christmas Island yesterday with some Australian media now saying those on board were not believed to be Sri Lankans.

According to The Australian website, Australian authorities believe the boat originated in Indonesia, not Sri Lanka, as initially suggested by some in Indonesia.

The website said that the passengers are Afghans, Iraqi and Iranian, and said to be all male. The first group of asylum seekers who were rescued from the site of the tragedy reached Christmas Island and so far up to 90 people are feared dead.

Several of the survivors are in hospital on Christmas Island and are said to be in a serious condition. Refrigeration units are available on Christmas Island for the deceased.

Yesterday almost all the Australian media reported that the boat was carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers heading to Australia.

However Sky News reported this morning (Friday) that according to Indonesian authorities there are reports of another boat with around 100 Sri Lankans on board which has also issued a distress call.

Search and rescue boats have been sent to try locate that boat as well, SKY news reported.

The External Affairs Ministry said it was still awaiting confirmation on the identity of those on board the vessel and if they are indeed Sri Lankans. (Colombo Gazette)