Coalition Government Under Fire For New Asylum Seeker Deaths

Getty/ Putu Sayoga. Indonesian police guard an asylum seeker boat on May 12, 2013 in Bali.

The Coalition has been criticised for its handling of an asylum seeker boat that sank between Indonesia and Australia on Friday, claiming up to 50 lives.

Surviving asylum-seekers have said Australian authorities were contacted at least 10 times with distress calls but never came.

The SMH has reported the death toll now stands at 24 dead from a boat of 81 people, with 22 survivors as of late yesterday.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refuted allegations the government ignored calls for help saying once they received a location they sent authorities but despite their efforts were unable to find the boat.

“Any loss of life is tragic,” Mr Morrison said. “The Australian government expresses its deepest sympathy to those affected.”

Opposition leaders have criticised the Abbott government’s approach to the tragedy, saying the weekly media briefings held by Morrison aren’t enough for the situation.

“This can’t wait for (immigration minister) Mr (Scott) Morrison’s weekly briefing.

“These updates should be provided as and when the government can,” Chris Bowen acting leader of the Labor Party said.

The Financial Review has reported one of the survivors, Lebanese man Hussein Khodr, had lost his pregnant wife and eight children in the disaster.

Indonesian officials said a decision on whether to resume the search would be made this morning.

The AFR and SMH have more.

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