Asylum seekers rescued by a merchant vessel off the coast of Indonesia were delivered to Christmas Island after the ship's captain feared violence when told they would not be taken to Australia.
The MV Parsifal, one of the world's biggest car carriers, was the first on the scene in response to a mayday call issued by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at 3.49am on Monday.
AMSA had been contacted directly several times by text and phone from people aboard the asylum seekers' vessel.
The boat carrying 67 men, believed to be Middle Eastern, was just 44 nautical miles from Java, well inside Indonesia's search and rescue zone, when the huge cargo ship arrived.
Having fulfilled its obligations under the laws of sea to rescue the asylum seekers, the captain of the MV Parsifal ordered the crew to continue steaming towards Singapore, its intended destination.
But when the asylum seekers learnt where the ship was headed, they got agitated and demanded to be taken to Australia, _The West Australian _ has learnt.
It is understood the captain grew concerned for the safety of his crew and ordered the 265m ship be turned around for Christmas Island, almost 190 nautical miles south.
At or around this time, HMAS Maitland arrived at the scene under the direction of AMSA.
The MV Parsifal, which is owned by the same company as the Norwegian carrier MV Tampa that rescued 433 asylum seekers in 2001 and which inspired John Howard's Pacific solution, arrived at Christmas Island on Tuesday night.
The 67 men are among more than 200 asylum seekers who now face being sent to Nauru or Manus Island for indefinite detention under the Gillard Government's revival of offshore processing.
Legislation passed the Lower House yesterday to enable the Immigration Minister to declare third countries as places for offshore processing.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the incident involving the MV Parsifal underlined the importance of the legislation, which was likely to pass the Senate today.
"It creates a disincentive for asylum seekers to pay people smugglers $10,000 in the first place and risk their lives at sea," he said.
"Under our legislation, you will get no advantage from doing this.
"Like all others who arrive by boat without a visa after August 13, these people now run the risk of being transferred to Nauru or Manus Island. Desperate people create dangerous situations.
"This is further evidence of the potential danger in towing boats back to Indonesia."
The circumstances surrounding the pick-up of the asylum seekers by the MV Parsifal mirror another incident on Monday.
On that occasion, a vessel carrying 62 people contacted Australian agencies when their boat was just 48 nautical miles south of East Java and within the Indonesian search and rescue zone.
Merchant vessel Maesrsk Diadema was first to respond to AMSA's mayday call.
They delivered the asylum seekers to Customs ship ACV Triton on Tuesday before heading to Christmas Island for processing.