18 Dec 2010

Australian govt blamed for Christmas Island deaths

6:14 pm on 18 December 2010

Australia's Iraqi community has spoken out against the government's immigration policies at a memorial in Sydney for those who died in Wednesday's boat disaster on Christmas Island.

The bodies of 30 asylum seekers have been recovered after their boat sank in heavy seas.

Forty-two people have been rescued from the wreckage but the authorities hold little hope of finding more survivors.

Many of those who died had family already living in Australia.

At a service held for the dead and the suffering in Sydney, members of the Iraqi Shia community said they hold the government responsible for the disaster.

Oday El-Ibrahimy, who lost three members of his family in the sinking, says the Australian government knew the boat was in trouble but failed to act.

A refugee advocacy group says the only humane way to treat those who survived such trauma is for the government to take the survivors to the mainland.

The ABC reports tensions are rising among asylum seekers being held on Christmas Island, with two protests held on Friday by detainees angry about the boat disaster.

Australian police hunt people smuggler

Meanwhile, Australian Federal Police working in Indonesia are reported to be closing in on the people smuggler who put passengers on the boat.

The smuggler has been identified as an Iranian man who is based in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

He was first identified by the ABC earlier this year during an investigation into people smuggling. The ABC is withholding the name and image of the man until he is in custody.

Sources in Indonesia say he worked in partnership with a group of Iraqi smugglers, who may also have contributed passengers to the doomed boat.