25 Jan 2011

Crew of shipwrecked asylum-seeker boat charged

6:01 pm on 25 January 2011

Three Indonesian fishermen on board a boat that was wrecked at Christmas Island have been charged with aggravated people-smuggling.

Up to 50 asylum-seekers died on 15 December when the vessel they were travelling in broke up and sank after crashing into rocks at the island in Australian territory.

The men appeared in a court in Perth on Tuesday and were charged with reckless people smuggling. They were not required to enter a plea, the ABC reports.

They are alleged to have brought a group of 69 Iranian, Iraqi and Kurdish asylum-seekers from Jakarta.

If found guilty, the men, aged 22, 60 and 32, face up to 20 years in jail and an $A220,000 fine, the ABC reports.

Australian Federal Police charged the three men late on Monday night.

Meanwhile, Christmas Island's emergency management committee has welcomed the recommendations of a review into the tragedy.

The Australian government has accepted all eight recommendations put forward by an internal inquiry by the Customs and Border Protection Service.

The committee's chairman and the island's administrator, Brian Lacy, says he is particularly pleased about plans to install additional rescue equipment in the area.

He says difficulty getting life jackets to the people in the water was one of the reasons behind the high death toll.

Mr Lacy says while additional rescue equipment is welcome, a new surveillance system will be the key to preventing another tragedy.