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Rohingya asylum seekers camp out on Christmas Island after boat sinks

Dolly Beach: where the asylum seekers had been camping. Photo: Supplied

By Lucy Carroll
December 5 2013

A group of Rohingya asylum seekers spent three days camped out on a Christmas Island beach unnoticed, eating crabs and coconuts to survive, after their boat sank on Monday.

Eight people walked out on to a main road on the island on Thursday to seek help, while another 17 remained on the beach. All 25 asylum seekers have now been taken into immigration detention.

Christmas Island councillor Gordon Thomson said the asylum seekers had been camping on Dolly Beach for three days.

“They walked [out] along a very steep track for about six kilometres. They found themselves on one of our main roads where they were seen and police and custom officers scrambled to pick them up.”
A group of Rohingya asylum seekers spent three days camped out on a Christmas Island beach unnoticed, eating crabs and coconuts to survive, after their boat sank on Monday.

Eight people walked out on to a main road on the island on Thursday to seek help, while another 17 remained on the beach. All 25 asylum seekers have now been taken into immigration detention.

Christmas Island councillor Gordon Thomson said the asylum seekers had been camping on Dolly Beach for three days.

“They walked [out] along a very steep track for about six kilometres. They found themselves on one of our main roads where they were seen and police and custom officers scrambled to pick them up.”
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It is understood three women and one child were among the group who arrived by boat. No injuries have been reported.

“Reports from someone who spoke to the eight people said no one had been lost after their boat sank.”

The remaining 17 asylum seekers were picked up by police on Thursday afternoon, Mr Thomson said.

They were taken into immigration detention and offered water and food. He said the group seemed to be in “good shape”.

They had survived on crabs and coconuts and were all uninjured, although slightly dehydrated.

Faced with increasing persecution and oppression, thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since last year.

In a rare press release about asylum seeker movements, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said authorities were responding to an incident of “unconfirmed nature” on Christmas Island on Thursday afternoon.

“Details of the incident are not clear at this point and persons who were involved in this incident are being questioned by on-island agencies,” the statement said.

Greens’ immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the fact more information was coming from locals than the government was an embarrassment.

‘‘And reports from locals that the boat may have been drifting for some time raise questions about the capacity of search and rescue operations that have been thrown into chaos in recent weeks,’’ Senator Hanson-Young said. ‘‘The government’s dangerous policies are not stopping the boats.’’

The asylum seeker boat is one of four to have arrived in the past five days. Mr Thomson said two vessels arrived overnight, while another carrying about 30 passengers was intercepted off Christmas Island on Sunday.

with AAP