– Customs and Border Protection waited hours before directing its ship to go to the rescue of a foundering asylum seeker boat that eventually capsized on Friday night, killing a baby boy and leaving eight other people missing, feared drowned.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare revealed at a press conference in Sydney on Saturday that the first distress calls were received by the Australian Federal Police at 11:15am on Friday from a Melbourne man warning the boat with 97 people on board, believed to be from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, was in trouble north of Christmas Island.
But customs did not direct its ship, the Triton, to go to the rescue until 4:50pm. When it reached the boat five hours later, it was found stationary and taking on water.
Three Australian customs officers boarded the boat but at 10:27pm, while the Triton was still alongside together with the merchant ship the “Garden City”, it was hit by a large wave, took on more water and began to sink.
Rescuers worked to pull 88 people from the water and the customs officers were also saved. But Mr Clare confirmed that the body of the boy who was less than one year old had been recovered and eight people remained missing.
The Triton took the survivors to Christmas Island on Saturday while two customs boats, a merchant ship and three aircraft continued searching for the missing.
Mr Clare said there would be an internal review of procedures, including an examination of the requests for help. But he would not comment on the delay, saying as a minister he should not be “second guessing” border protection actions while there were still people missing.
Former Australian ambassador and author Tony Kevin questioned “why boats have to overturn and babies have to drown before Border Protection takes its rescue responsibilities seriously”.
“This is the latest in a long series of highly questionable deaths at sea after Australian authorities have, in many cases, detected and even intercepted asylum seeker boats. It reflects growing indifference to asylum seekers losing their lives at sea and a growing brutalisation of our practices,” Mr Kevin said.
Speaking at a press conference in Brisbane on Saturday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the tragedy “underlines the absolute importance for Australia to continue to adjust its policies to meet challenging circumstances in the region and in the world when it comes to border security”.
Mr Clare said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority requested assistance from customs at 12:30pm on Friday and just after 3pm the authority put out a broadcast to any ships in the area to go to the assistance of the asylum seeker boat.
Mr Clare said customs did not direct its ships to go north until 4:30pm. Just minutes later, at 4:40pm, the federal police received calls from people on the boat saying it was disabled and taking on water, and at 4:50pm customs directed the Triton to go to the rescue – Natalie O’Brien & Cameron Atfield


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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