Adrift and Unwanted

EPA SCANPIX WILHELMSEN GROUP/AFP

Conditions are deteriorating on board the refugees' ship near the Australian coast

A sailor since he was 15 and now on the verge of retirement, Arne Rinnan might have been excused for thinking he could negotiate any challenge the sea could toss up. But as the graying Norwegian skipper steered his red freighter, the MS Tampa, across the Indian Ocean en route to Singapore last week, he sailed into a storm to shake any captain's confidence.

A call from Australian rescue authorities alerted Rinnan to a sinking wooden ferry 140 km northwest of Christmas Island, a tiny, remote Australian territory 320 km south of Java. When the Tampa reached...

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