BLITAR, East Java – Authorities in Indonesia are closer to finding the individuals behind a people-smuggling operation that ended in the deaths of scores of asylum seekers and netted the syndicate responsible more than $1 million.
Up to 200 people are still missing, feared drowned, after their boat suddenly capsized off East Java, 60 kilometres into its voyage to Christmas Island.
As the search for survivors entered its fourth day, there were fresh reports that another group of asylum seekers from the doomed vessel, which sank in rough seas on Saturday, may have made their way to an island off the East Java coast.
The development came after a group of 13 people, comprising 12 men and a woman, were found on Monday on the island of Nusa Barung, about 200 kilometres from the site where the vessel went down.
The discovery of the group of 13, as well as two crew who abandoned the sinking ship in a dinghy and who were found on Monday afternoon on the East Java mainland at Sindang Biru, puts the total number of survivors at 49.
Authorities have not been able to locate the group on the second island, news of which came to light after a family in Pakistan said they had received a call from one of the asylum seekers, who reported he was safe but injured.
The chief of the search and rescue effort, Sutrisno, said the number the man gave to his family was no longer active.
He said search teams would again scour islands in the vicinity of the site where the asylum seeker boat sank in the hope of locating the man, who reported he was with a large group of people.
“At the moment there is not other confirmation,” Sutrisno said, adding that the overall search area had been expanded and that the mission would continue until at least Saturday.
Indonesian anti-people smuggling taskforce officers, assisted by Australian Federal Police, have continued interviewing survivors as they look to gather evidence and establish who was responsible for the deadly people-smuggling venture.
With survivors having said they paid between $4000 and $6500 to board the vessel, it’s believed those responsible would have netted well in excess of $1 million.
Brigadier-General Ari Dono Sukmanto, who has overall responsibility for the anti-people smuggling taskforce, said that while no chief suspect had been established, authorities did have some leads.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.