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Refugee Boat Sinks on Way to Australia

  • VOA News

A villager stands near body bags containing the dead bodies of asylum seekers, who were killed when their boat sank, at an Agrabinta health clinic on the outskirts of Sukabumi, Indonesia's West Java province, Sept. 28, 2013.

A villager stands near body bags containing the dead bodies of asylum seekers, who were killed when their boat sank, at an Agrabinta health clinic on the outskirts of Sukabumi, Indonesia's West Java province, Sept. 28, 2013.

Indonesian officials say an Australia-bound boat full of asylum seekers sank Friday off the coast of Indonesia's main island of Java, killing at least 21 people.

Authorities say 28 people survived the incident and more than 70 others are unaccounted for.

Officials say the passengers were mostly from the Middle East, including Lebanon and Yemen. One Lebanese man is reported to have lost his wife and eight children.

Survivors said the boat was headed for Australia's Christmas Island.

The sinking comes just days ahead of new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot's first state visit to Indonesia, where his tough boatpeople deterrence policies are likely to be the focus of talks.

The steady flow of refugee boats is a hot political issue in Australia, polarizing voters and stoking tension with countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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