Abbott faces boat challenge

Interception: The Australian Customs vessel Triton. Picture: Supplied

Two asylum seeker boats were last night headed for Christmas Island in a major challenge to Tony Abbott's tough border security regime.

One boat carrying about 150 Tamils was said to be in remote waters 300km west of Christmas Island.

The other, carrying about 50 passengers, had been intercepted by the Australian Customs vessel Triton between Christmas Island and Java.

The Weekend West _managed to speak to passengers aboard the bigger boat carrying 153 people.

Surya, an 18-year-old woman on the boat, said 37 children and 32 women were among the passengers.

She said they had been at sea for two weeks.

They claim to be Tamil Sri Lankans who had set off from the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu on June 12.

"We are not having any problem with the engine but we are having a problem with an oil pipe," Surya said.

She said the oil pipe was leaking, forcing the boat to slow down significantly.

When The Weekend West spoke with Surya, the boat was about 300km west of Christmas Island.

She said calls had been made to Australia on Thursday for help but that assistance was yet to come.

It is believed Customs was moving to try to turn the boat back to Indonesia.

But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is refusing to confirm the existence of a boat and says there are no significant incidents at sea to report.

No asylum vessel has successfully made the journey to Australia in more than six months.

But several asylum boats are known to have been turned back to Indonesia after making it to Australian waters.

Under the Coalition's Operation Sovereign Borders the Government refuses to give out even basic information about boat interceptions or turnbacks.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul, who first spoke to one of the groups on Thursday, said Australian authorities must get to the boat as soon as possible.

"They are asking for help," he said.

"It is imperative that the asylum seekers get all the assistance they need to get safely to Christmas Island.

"We are extremely concerned that the Government may attempt to divert the asylum seekers or leave assistance until it is too late."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting