Australian rescue authorities have ended their search for survivors after an asylum seeker boat carrying at least 55 people capsized in the Indian Ocean.

Ships and aircraft had spotted a total of 13 bodies, life jackets and debris near Christmas Island, an Australian territory closer to Indonesia than to the mainland.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) called off the search on Sunday night based on medical advice that no one could have survived that long in the sea.

AMSA announced that discussions were under way on whether an operation to recover the bodies should be launched.

"This is another terrible tragedy, another terrible reminder how dangerous these journeys are," Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said.

Dangerous journey

Most of the asylum seekers who make their way by boat to Australia via Indonesia come from Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are mostly men, but also women and children. 

The trips are often on overcrowded and poorly maintained boats, leading to a number of accidents and the loss of hundreds of lives.

The number of people attempting the journey has risen significantly in recent months.

Source: Agencies