Prospects fade for more survivors from asylum seeker boat tragedy off Christmas Island


A barge carrying rescued suspected asylum seekers nears Christmas Island on June 22, 2012.


Getty Images

Rescue ships and aircraft scoured the seas off Australia's Christmas Island today for survivors from a refugee boat traveling from Indonesia that capsized.

Three asylum-seekers have been confirmed dead but fears are held for 90 of the 200 believed to have been on board the boat.

So far 109 people have been rescued, Agence France-Presse reported, with survivors transported to Christmas Island.

However the Australian authorities reportedly said no more survivors had been found today.

"There’s no good news," Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said told Sky TV.

"We’ve seen more bodies in the water. I can’t report any information that they’ve seen people alive."

The Australian Navy is involved in the rescue, with Clare revealing this morning that maritime authorities received a distress call from the vessel on Tuesday night, according to the Australian.

The chances of finding more survivor was becoming "increasingly grim" as sea conditions deteriorated, Clare reportedly said.

The boat was reportedly about 110 nautical miles off Christmas Island when it capsized, according to Bloomberg News, in at least the fourth fatal such incident since 2010.

Refugees seeking asylum often pay Indonesian people smugglers — also known as snakeheads — thousands of dollars to ferry them to Australia. The boats are often in poor condition and usually overcrowded.

Bloomberg wrote that the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat was hurting the reelection prospects of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority Labor government.

"Voters have become tired of the boat-people issue and just want the government to sort it out," the news outlet quoted Nick Economou, a political analyst at Monash University in Melbourne, as saying.

"Both parties have shown they can’t really deal with the matter."

More from GlobalPost: Australia: the truth about asylum seekers