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3 Dead, 150 Rescued After Asylum Boat Sinks off Indonesia

Indonesian authorities are searching for survivors after an Australia bound boat full of asylum seekers sank off the southwest coast of Java.

Officials said Wednesday at least 150 people have been rescued. So far, at least three people have been reported dead, including two children. An unknown number of others are missing.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the boat left an Indonesian fishing village Tuesday bound for Australia's Christmas Island, and sank a short while later when hit by heavy easterly winds.

Some of the rescued passengers say they were from Iran and Iraq. Other said they were from Southeast Asian nations.

Hundreds of would-be asylum seekers -- many from Afghanistan and other South Asian nations -- have drowned in recent years trying to reach Australia from Indonesia in flimsy boats operated by people smugglers.

The Australian government says more than 15,000 refugees have arrived on boats so far this year.

The latest sinking comes after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd enacted a new policy last week under which people who arrive by boat will not be allowed to settle in the country. All new asylum seekers will now be settled in Papua New Guinea.

Human rights groups and some politicians have opposed the move, saying it is cruel. But the government has defended the move, saying it is necessary to deter people from making the dangerous journey.

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