Mystery Over Fate of Australia-Bound Refugee Boats

A handout photo released by the Indonesian National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows a boat carrying up to 180 refugees on the waters off Christmas Island, Australia, 04 July 2012. The Australian government refused to comment Monday on the fate of two refugee boats that were reportedly heading for Australia. EPA/BASARNAS

SYDNEY (DPA) — The Australian government refused to comment Monday on the fate of two refugee boats that were reportedly heading for Australia.

One boat was believed to be carrying 153 Sri Lankan Tamils, including 37 children. It was last heard from by reporters on Saturday when it was 300 kilometres west of the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the boat had been intercepted by an Australian customs vessel on Sunday. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to comment.

A person claiming he was on the boat told reporters by satellite phone on Saturday that the boat had set out from the southern Indian port of Pondicherry on June 13.

A second boat was reported to have been en route to Christmas Island from Indonesia, but Morrison refused to comment on that boat as well.

Several Australian media reports said the refugees were believed to have been taken on board an Australian customs vessel, but their destination was unknown.

The government has built detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, where thousands of refugees are being held. Morrison has vowed that those people will not be allowed to enter Australia.

The government's policy to stop the boats from coming to Australia. None have arrived in six months.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young accused the government of operating "prison ships," holding hundreds of refugees, including babies, rather than transporting them to Australian territory where they could get proper health assistance.