17 Mar 2010

Rudd silent on asylum-seeker deaths - for now

9:31 pm on 17 March 2010

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the time is not yet right to judge publicly a group of asylum-seekers named in connection with a boat explosion.

Five Afghan asylum-seekers died and many more were injured after fuel was deliberately spilled and ignited on a boat off the northwest coast of Australia last year.

An Australian coroner says the fire aboard the wooden fishing vessel, known as SIEV 36, causing it to explode in the Timor Sea last year, was intentionally started. Five Afghans drowned, and 40 were injured in the explosion.

The coroner's findings have sparked an angry political debate in Canberra. The coroner says he will refer his report to police for further investigation.

Australia's opposition says the government should revoke the visas granted to the asylum-seekers named in the report.

But Mr Rudd says the government will make its decision once the police investigation is finalised.