At least 22 dead after asylum seeker boat sinks off Indonesia


Rescuers assist survivors arriving on fishing boat at the wharf of Cidaun, West Java on July 24, 2013 after an Australia-bound boat carrying asylum-seekers sank off the Indonesian coast.



At least 22 Middle Eastern asylum seekers have died after their boat sank off the Indonesian coast, ending their attempt to reach the Australian territory of Christmas Island. 

The asylum seekers hailed from Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen, writes the BBC, which added that Indonesian rescue officials have taken the survivors to Indonesia's Cianjur district. 

More from GlobalPost: Australia's asylum-seeker policy may breach international law: UNHCR

West Java police said that most of the dead were children, writes AFP, which added that 25 survivors were rescued out of a total of 120. 

In a separate incident, the Australian Navy took 44 asylum seekers back to Indonesia, after they were found just outside of Indonesia's 12-mile nautical limit, writes ABC News 24.

Thousands of refugees from around the world attempt to travel to Australia by means of boat every year, usually making for the territory of Christmas Island which is much closer to Indonesia than to the continent's mainland. 

The so-called "boat people" are an extremely contentious political topic in Australian politics, with new Prime Minister Tony Abbot vowing to toughen up his nation's policy on migrants, calling them a "passing irritant" to the Indonesian-Australian relationship, according to AFP. 

Indonesia's Golkar Party is opposed to Australian plans to turn back asylum seekers boats back to Indonesia, as this could allow Australian vessels to enter Indonesian waters. 

“The consensus between the government and the House is to oppose the plan proposed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The policy hurts Indonesia’s sovereignty,” said House of Representatives’ Commission I Golkar party member Tantowi Yahya to the Jakarta Globe.