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Australia-Bound Asylum Boat Sinks Off Indonesia, 9 Dead

Indonesia says the death toll from the latest sinking of a boat carrying asylum seekers bound for Australia has risen to nine as authorities continue searching for survivors.

Indonesian police said Wednesday nine bodies have been recovered from the waters off the coast of West Java province, where the overloaded boat sank the day before, several hours after departing from a fishing village.

At least 200 people had crowded onto the small vessel when it started taking in water while navigating in strong winds. Indonesian fishermen and other rescuers found 189 people in the sea and brought them to the nearby village of Cidaun. Authorities also searched for missing passengers.

Most of the asylum seekers were from Sri Lanka. Others included Iranians and Iraqis. They were hoping to reach Australia's Christmas Island, several hundred kilometers to the south.

Australia toughened its policy on asylum seekers last week, saying those who try to arrive by boat will be sent to its neighbor, Papua New Guinea, and resettled in the impoverished nation even if granted refugee status. Human rights groups have criticized the new policy as cruel.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Wednesday the move sends what he called a "very clear message to people smugglers" that any asylum seekers they bring to his nation will "not be settled" there.



Mr. Rudd has been under domestic pressure to stop the influx, with more than 15,000 asylum seekers sailing to Australia this year. His government has said many of them are economic migrants.

Hundreds of asylum seekers have drowned in recent years trying to make the crossing from Indonesia to Australia in flimsy boats operated by people smugglers. Canberra has said it wants to deter people from risking the journey.

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