By The Age –
Authorities have rescued 32 suspected asylum seekers after their boat crashed onto rocks off the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
The boat had crashed on the Australian territory, halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka, on Saturday night.
The boat is believed to have set out from Sri Lanka, Seven Network reports.
“Either they’ve tried to beach and they’ve stuffed the boat up or the boat was stuffed up before they tried to beach,” Cocos Club President John Clunies-Ross told Seven.
Mr Clunies-Ross said his pub had been converted into emergency accommodation for the boat’s passengers.
“We’re basically left with people stealing my pub every time they need something,” he said.
The passengers are being transferred to Christmas Island, closer to Western Australia, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks.
The boat was the third suspected asylum seeker vessel intercepted in Australian waters on Saturday.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the government had not been up-front about the AFP’s involvement.
“The AFP do not have maritime assets in that region capable of such an interception and reports from locals in the region are there was no vessel to intercept, as it had been wrecked on a reef with the passengers forced to swim to safety where they were later rescued,” he said in a statement.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s office could not be reached for comment on Sunday evening.
The AFP was unable to comment on the circumstances of the interception or confirm reports that the vessel had been wrecked.
The two AFP officers on the islands are responsible for search and rescue coordination, immigration duties and marine patrol.
Calls to border protection authorities were not immediately returned.