A boat full of more than 70 asylum seekers headed for Australia capsized off the coast of the island of Java on Tuesday, drowning at least eight people, including three children.
The Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency rescued 46 people as of 2 p.m., according to the Australia Broadcast Corporation, and the rest are still missing.
The migrants, hailing from as far away as Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, boarded the 30-foot wooden fishing boat in Java, Indonesia around 2 a.m. Tuesday. Each paid thousands of dollars for the trip.
We were shocked. We told them [the boat] was too small, there were too many people,' Kamran Haider, an asylum seeker who was on the capsized vessel, told The Age.
[The Indonesian crew] got very angry and said 'no questions' about this, Kamran, a 17-year-old Pakistani, told the Australian news outlet. They just said 'sit down, you can do nothing about it' ... We were still arguing when the boat tipped to one side and it started to sink.''
The boat flipped thirty minutes into the journey, trapping many people below deck.
An Iranian father named Hamid Ranjbarian told The Age that he broke through a small hole in the ship's hull, allowing passengers to swim for safety.
''I had no life jacket. I had to swim around for six hours. Six hours holding my daughter up. I saw the police boat lights but they didn't come to get me. It was a fisherman [who rescued us].
On Wednesday, the Australian government discussed the political implications of the incident. A prior decision to stop all boats entering the country has arguably made human trafficking more dangerous, as smugglers have to operate at night and under increased caution.
Australia and Malaysia have recently been working together in a potential refugee swap deal that would send illegal immigrants back to the South Asian country in exchange for registered refugees.
This is a terrible tragedy but it is a fact that when you have more boats coming to Australia you will see more deaths, Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Tuesday, according to News.com.au.
We didn't adopt the Malaysia arrangement because it was politically easy or it was convenient, quite the opposite. We adopted it because we knew that this was the sort of arrangement that was necessary to avoid more deaths at sea, and that's exactly what we've seen.