UNHCR shocked at loss of life after boat accident off Christmas Island

Geneva, Wednesday 15 December 2010

The following UNHCR statement can be attributed to UNHCR Spokesperson, Melissa Fleming

We are today expressing our deep shock and sorrow at the tragic loss of lives after the sinking of a vessel presumed to be carrying asylum-seekers off Christmas Island.

We are encouraged by reports that quick rescue action saved the lives of as many as 41 passengers. But dozens more drowned as the boat attempted to land and was engulfed in powerful waves crashing the boat into rocks.

We believe that far too many people are tragically losing their lives as they take desperate measures to escape conflict, persecution and poverty.

UNHCR acknowledges the movement of tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers tests the capacity of countries on the shores of the Asia-Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or the Gulf of Aden. By the same token, many people coming by boat to these regions are found to be refugees.