‘Government Not in Control’ says Labor as Rohingya Refugees Camp on Christmas Island Undetected

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By Sunny Peter | December 6, 2013 3:39 PM EST

Labor on Thursday, charged the government on failing to uphold its promise to bring "discipline and focus" in the targeted military operation for managing the refugee issue, after reports emerged that around 28 Rohingya asylum seekers spent three days at Christmas Island beach unnoticed.

Reports say the group ate crabs and coconuts to survive. Of the group, 19 have been accounted for, said a spokesman of the Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Authorities are reported to be continuing search for the remaining nine in the heavy jungles of Christmas Island.

Reports say the 28 asylum seekers landed on Christmas Island after the boat in which they were travelling, capsized, and they swam ashore. The group's boat is believed to be one of four boats which arrived on the island in the past five days.

The immigration minister's spokesman said the asylum seekers came ashore on Monday and that no person is "believed to have been lost at sea."

In a rare press release issued about midnight on Thursday, the immigration ministry said, eight people among the 28 including two crew members have been housed at the Phosphate Hill facility which is under the care of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. One person is in the Christmas Island Hospital "after sustaining minor injuries" and is said to be in a stable condition. Five others "are currently being escorted by AFP officers for transfer to the Phosphate Hill facility".

"A further nine other persons are believed to be in heavy jungle approximately 50 minutes' walk away from the nearest road," the Immigration Minister's spokesman said.

"A search is under way for the individuals, co-ordinated by the AFP," the spokesman said. The search was reported to "resume at first light Friday".

"They walked [out] along a very steep track for about six kilometres. They found themselves on one of our main roads where they were seen and police and custom officers scrambled to pick them up," said Christmas Island councillor Gordon Thomson.

Charging the government with failure to uphold its promise to bring the "discipline and focus of a targeted military operation" to the asylum seeker issue, Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles asked how it was possible for that asylum seekers could be on Christmas Island since Monday without the government knowing about it.

 "The question today is with all of that focus and discipline how is it possible that a boat arrived on Christmas Island without detection?" Mr Marles said.

"What is clear is the government is not in control," he said.

Thousands of ethnic Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar, have fled the country fearing persecution and oppression since last year.

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