Indonesia asylum boat toll hits 39 as Abbott visits

Indonesia asylum boat toll hits 39 as Abbott visits
Mr Abbott's hardline stance came under pressure when a boat with 88 passengers and two crew members was found in Australian waters within hours of his election last Saturday night.

JAKARTA - The death toll from the sinking of an Australia-bound asylum-seeker boat off Indonesia rose to 39 on Monday, as Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Jakarta for talks on his tough boat-people policies.

The boat, which was estimated to be carrying between 80 and 120 Middle Eastern asylum seekers, went down on Friday in rough seas off Indonesia's main island of Java.

Twenty-eight people escaped alive but more are still believed to be missing. However, Warsono, police chief in the Agrabinta area of Java where the boat sank, said there was little prospect of finding more survivors.

"We found seven bodies today, two of them are children," Warsono told AFP.

The total death toll was now 39, added the official who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

Rescuers have been unable to deploy boats to hunt in the rough seas, with waves at heights of four to six metres (13 to 20 feet).

Abbott arrived in Jakarta Monday at the start of his first overseas trip since becoming premier. His tough refugee policies are expected to be the focus of discussions during the visit.

He has put in place a military-led operation known as Sovereign Borders, which involves turning boats around when it is safe to do so, as he seeks to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving in Australia.

Hundreds have died in recent years attempting the journey after boarding rickety, wooden boats in Indonesia.

But just a few weeks after winning power, Abbot's new government is facing criticism over Friday's accident after survivors claimed their calls for help to Australian rescuers went unheeded.

Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann insisted at the weekend that Australia had provided "all appropriate assistance".

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