Australia rescues 162 asylum seekers from boat

Asylum seekers on board were now to be transferred to Christmas Island by the Australian Navy after the rescue.

Updated: Jul 05, 2012, 13:48 PM IST

Melbourne: Australian authorities have reportedly rescued 162 suspected asylum seekers after their vessel sent a distress call.

According to an ABC report, asylum seekers on board were now to be transferred to Christmas Island by the Australian Navy after the rescue that happened yesterday.

Navy ship HMAS Wollongong was already in the area and was directed to monitor the boat. It is said that the boat continued to travel to Christmas Island despite warnings to turn back to Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare was quoted by `The Australian` report that smugglers were telling their clients to "ring Australia" if they ran into problems on the seas between Indonesia and Australia.

"I think people-smugglers put people to sea after they take their money and they tell people to ring Australia and expect that vessels will come to meet them," he said.

"Sometimes it is a false alarm, sometimes it is the real thing. We treat every single phone call seriously, because if you don`t, people die."

Clare`s spokeswoman said the advice from Border Protection Command was that there was no evidence to suggest sabotage had played a role in the capsize of either of the boats that foundered last month.

"Any allegations relating to those incidents are a matter for the investigation by the (Australian Federal Police) and WA Coroner," the spokeswoman said.

Clare said today Australia would continue to provide assistance to asylum seeker boats who issued a distress call regardless of whether it was a false alarm as "sometimes it is the real thing and our top priority is saving lives at sea".

Clare said the tactic employed by smugglers who instructed passengers to call Australian authorities with reports of maritime distress was "nothing new".

The people onboard the boat intercepted overnight were "extremely lucky" that HMAS Wollongong was en route from Singapore to Christmas Island when the initial distress call was received early last morning.

Last month, two vessels capsized and at least 94 lives were lost.