19 Apr 2009

Asylum seekers doused deck with petrol say sources

10:07 pm on 19 April 2009

Senior government sources have confirmed that Australian asylum seekers on board a boat that exploded last week had doused the deck with petrol as a threatened act of sabotage.

The Government says it will not comment on what caused Thursday's fatal blast while a police investigation is underway.

But the ABC has been told the asylum seekers doused the boat in petrol to try and force the navy to let them land in Australia and not turn them back to Indonesia.

However, it is understood the explosion was an accident.

West Australian Liberal Premier Colin Barnett who claimed on Thursday that the asylum seekers had doused their vessel in fuel, wants the federal government to come clean.

He said three days on it's likely a great deal is known about what happened and the federal government should make a more detailed statement to the Australian people.

The boat sank off the northwestern coast of the country as it was being escorted to Christmas Island by the Australian Navy.

At least three Afghans died and another two are missing presumed dead after the explosion ripped apart the boat off Australia's north-west coast, with dozens more injured.

Reports of more asylum seekers

The Australian government will not confirm reports that another boat load of asylum seekers is en route to Australia.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Evans says authorities remain on "high alert".

He told ABC Television that: "The risk of more arrivals is there."

The federal opposition says the Rudd government's relaxed immigration policies have led to a surge in arrivals.

The Rudd government dismantled the "Pacific Solution" policy which saw asylum seekers held in offshore detention facilities while their claims were processed.

Senator Evans said there is a worldwide increase in the number of people seeking asylum.

Burns victims

Doctors at the Royal Brisbane Hospital are using interpreters to talk to victims of Thursday's explosion.

Four men are in medically induced comas and one has a broken neck.

Two others with less serious injuries are in the burns unit.

In Western Australia, doctors at Royal Perth Hospital say all 23 casualties of the boat explosion underwent surgery on Saturday and Sunday and all are in a stable condition.