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Asylum seekers drown on way to Australia

Last updated 10:18 30/01/2013

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At least two Sri Lankan asylum seekers have died and a third is missing after their boat smashed into rocks off the coast of Central Java as they made their way to Australia.

Twenty survivors, including a four-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, were taken last night to the island of Nusa Kambangan near the coastal town of Cilacap.

Another two survivors had been taken to a hospital in Cilacap for treatment.

The group is believed to have left Sri Lanka for Australia about two months ago, and was about to begin the final leg of their voyage to Christmas Island when the boat's engine broke down on Monday.

The vessel drifted for hours before it foundered on rocks at Nusa Kambangan.

The island, known as the Alcatraz of Indonesia, is home to maximum security prisons and was where some of the 2002 Bali bombers were incarcerated and later executed.

Local fisherman spotted the asylum seekers at about 7pm local time on Monday night.

The head of the Cilacap immigration office, Syamsul Bahri, said the vessel had originated from Sri Lanka and was transiting through Indonesian waters on the way to Christmas Island.

"They're saying that they're ... heading to Australia," he said.

He said the survivors would be moved to an immigration detention centre in Semarang.

Hundreds of asylum seekers perished last year attempting to make the crossing from Indonesian waters to Christmas Island.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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