Up to five asylum seekers are believed to have drowned after
a boat carrying more than 100 people sank north of Christmas
Australian authorities called off search and rescue
operations on Tuesday night after rescuing 106 people,
Customs and Border Protection says.
"The suspension follows confirmation from on-scene crews and
interviews with survivors that all survivors have been
recovered," Customs said in a statement.
Information from survivors suggested that up to five people
remained unaccounted for, but they may have gone down with
After an extensive search for survivors and bodies, none were
"It is therefore believed any people unaccounted for have
gone down with part of the vessel," Customs said.
The 106 survivors are being transferred to Christmas Island
for health and security checks.
They will all eventually be sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru
and could be resettled in those nations if found to be
Meanwhile, federal Labor's hardline resettlement plan is
facing its first legal challenge.
Sydney lawyer Adrian Joel, who represents a would-be refugee
on PNG's Manus Island, lodged a challenge in the Federal
Court on Monday. It's believed the case will eventually be
heard by the High Court.
Mr Joel is expected to argue that PNG is not a suitable
destination for asylum seekers.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd dismissed suggestions the policy
may go the same way as the Gillard government's Malaysia
people swap deal, which was struck out by the High Court in
"We have exactly the right policy message on this and exactly
the right administration to back it up," Mr Rudd told
reporters in Brisbane.
The latest boat tragedy comes as Immigration Minister Tony
Burke and Foreign Minister Bob Carr attended a regional
anti-people smuggling conference in Indonesia on Tuesday.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned against Senator Carr and
Mr Burke signing up to any agreement that may come from the
talks due to the fact that the government was in "caretaker
mode" ahead of the election next month.
A legal challenge being mounted by PNG's opposition against
the asylum seeker plan also picked up steam on Tuesday, with
lawyers applying to add Manus detainee and asylum seeker
Rawed Reza to the list of challengers to the controversial