20 Dec 2010

Police close to finalising Christmas Island death toll

4:15 pm on 20 December 2010

Australian Federal Police believe they are close to finalising the death toll from the asylum-seeker tragedy on Christmas Island.

So far 30 bodies have been recovered after a boat carrying up to 100 people broke up and sank in rough seas off the island on Wednesday.

The AFP says it may know as early as Monday how many people are still missing. Superintendent Gavin Ryan believes the death toll will be higher than the 30 confirmed dead, but says the additional bodies may never be found.

The ABC reports a memorial service was held on Christmas Island on Sunday for those affected by the tragedy.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called for the Nauru detention centre to be reopened and for boats carrying asylum-seekers to be turned back in cases where it is safe to do so.

He said on Sunday that the "unspeakable horror" might have been avoided if a tougher regime had been in place.

Mr Abbott said the Howard government managed to "stop the boats" and its asylum-seeker policies should be reintroduced.