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Timeline: Australia’s asylum boat incidents

The following is a chronology of events leading up to the crash of a boat carrying refugees that left 27 dead on Wednesday at Australia’s Christmas Island.


More than 100 boats carrying at least 5,000 refugees mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, have arrived in Australia this year, the biggest surge in almost 10 years.

Here are some key incidents involving refugee boats making for Australia in the past 10 years:

August 2001: Australia denies permission for the Norwegian vessel the MV Tampa to enter its waters after rescuing 438 mainly Afghan refugees from a stranded boat off Christmas Island, sparking international condemnation.

October 6, 2001: A wooden boat known as the SIEV-4, carrying 223 passengers and crew, sinks after being stopped by Australian officials attempting to turn it back to Indonesia.

The incident came to be known as the “Children Overboard” affair after the government falsely claimed that the refugees were throwing infants into the water to try and force officials to bring them to Australia.

October 19, 2001: An Indonesian fishing boat known as the SIEV-X sinks en route to Australia, carrying 421 passengers, mostly Iraqis and Afghans. Of those, 353 died, 146 of them children, in the most deadly incident involving refugees in Australia’s history.

April 16, 2009: Five Afghan refugees die when their boat explodes off Ashmore Reef, near Christmas Island, following an act of sabotage which also injured dozens of the 49 on board.

October 10, 2009: A boat carrying more than 250 Sri Lankan Tamils bound for Australia is intercepted by Indonesian authorities on request from Canberra, prompting a six-month standoff at the port of Merak where they refused to disembark.

October 18, 2009: Australia’s Oceanic Viking Customs vessel rescues 78 Sri Lankan Tamils from their distressed ship in international waters, sparking a tense stand-off with Indonesia after the men refused to leave the ship at Tanjung Pinang.

December 15, 2010: Twenty-seven refugees killed after a rickety boat shatters in cyclonic seas off Christmas Island, wounding more than 30.

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