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Search for refugees lost at sea

AUSTRALIAN rescuers are searching for about 90 asylum seekers missing in Indonesian waters after their boat sank, at least the fourth fatal incident since 2010.

"The objective is to save as many lives as possible," Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. Of the 200 all-male passengers on board, three bodies have been found and 110 people rescued and taken to Christmas Island off Australia, he said.

The so-called boat people issue is hurting Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labour government, which is in a political stalemate with Tony Abbott's Liberal-National opposition over where to base offshore refugee processing centres.

Refugees seeking asylum often pay illegal people smugglers in Indonesia thousands of dollars to reach Australia.