Two people dead after boat carrying asylum seekers capsizes

A SMALL child was one of two people killed when a fishing boat carrying almost 100 asylum seekers capsized north of Christmas Island on Monday.

The child, aged four or five, and a woman in her 30s died when two large waves crashed into the boat, causing it to roll 14 nautical miles off Christmas Island at 11am (AEST) on Monday.

Another two people - a boy aged six or seven and a pregnant woman in her 20s - were critically injured.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare revealed two Border Protection officers who had boarded the boat were on the vessel when the waves struck.

ACV Ocean Protector rescued the officers, along with 93 asylum seekers.

They also recovered the bodies of the child and the woman.

The survivors were taken to Christmas Island just before 2pm for health, security and identity checks.

Mr Clare said the search for more survivors was continuing by air and water, although authorities believed all of the boat's passengers had been rescued.

The people on board were thought to be from the Middle East and ranged by age and gender. Border protection will again be a divisive election issue, with a surge of recent boat arrivals adding to Labor's mounting electoral woes.

Australian authorities have stopped or rescued six boats carrying almost 400 people since Friday.

Mr Clare, who was elevated to the Cabinet on Monday in the frontbench reshuffle, said the increase in boats could be put down to a change in the weather.

"We're entering the end of the monsoon season, and the weather conditions off the coast of Christmas Island have improved dramatically over ... the last nine to 10 days," Mr Clare said.

"As a result of that you're seeing an increase in the number of boats that are travelling to Christmas Island."

The monsoon season traditionally does not end until the end of April.

A Border Protection aircraft first spotted the boat 76 nautical miles off Christmas Island at 4pm on Sunday. 

About five hours later the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority received a distress call from a boat 55 nautical miles north north-west of Christmas Island.

Shortly after 10pm ACV Ocean Protector set off to locate the vessel, which it did at 3am on Monday 20 nautical miles closer to the island.

At 11am on Monday Ocean Protector approached the vessel 14 nautical miles off Christmas Island.

The boat stopped and allowed the Border Protection officers to board.

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