UNHCR deplores loss of life off Indonesia

Briefing Notes, 4 November 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahečić to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 November 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is greatly saddened by Tuesday's boat accident off the coast of western Java in which at least nine people lost their lives. The incident underlines once again the desperate steps that people are willing to take in their search for protection or a better future. It also adds urgency to UNHCR's calls to the international community to cooperate more closely in addressing irregular migration and providing protection and solutions to refugees, thus averting the need for individuals to undertake such perilous journeys by boat.

According to Indonesian authorities, nine bodies have been recovered so far four children and five women. The number of missing people is still unknown. Estimates are that there were between 60 and 100 people on board the overloaded vessel apparently built to carry only 30 passengers when it capsized in bad weather and rough seas. The boat was reportedly en route to Nusa Tenggara Timur and then to Australia. The passengers included Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani nationals.

Thanks to prompt action by the Indonesian navy 47 people were rescued. They are now being termporarilly accommodated in Ciamis in central Java. We are encouraged by the immediate humanitarian response of the Indonesian authorities and our partner IOM in providing medical supplies, food, clothing and psychological support to the traumatized survivors.

UNHCR is maintaining close contact with the Indonesian authorities namely the Immigration Office, the Navy, the Marine Police as well as the Search and Rescue service as we seek to learn more about the incident and the status of survivors. The authorities are currently conducting their own interviews and investigation.

UNHCR stands ready to assist the Indonesian government in registering those who wish to claim asylum and then determine whether they should receive refugee status. We are also trying to establish if there were people on the boat who may have already registered as asylum seekers or been recognized as refugees by UNHCR.

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