At least 20 people, mostly children, have drowned and many are missing after an Australia-bound boat carrying Middle Eastern asylum-seekers sank off Indonesia, according to Indonesian police.

"Local people found 20 dead bodies floating in the water, most of them are children," Warsono, a police official in the Cianjur district of West Java province on Indonesia's main island of Java, said on Friday.

The official, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, added that the boat was believed to have been carrying 120 people, and that 25 adults had so far been rescued alive.

He said they were asylum-seekers heading to the Australian territory of Christmas Island and those who had died, and the survivors, were from Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen.

The incident is the latest deadly sinking of an asylum-seeker boat off Indonesia, a hub for would-be refugees trying to reach Australia.

It comes just days before Tony Abbott, Australia's new prime minister, visits Indonesia, where his tough policies aimed at stemming the flood of asylum seekers have caused anger.

Source: AFP