The UN's refugee agency has called on Australia to redouble its efforts to find safer ways for asylum seekers to pursue protection in the wake of the latest boat disaster.

Up to 90 people are feared dead after an overpacked boat capsized between Indonesia and Christmas Island on Thursday.

A total of 109 people have been rescued so far.

The UNHCR says the tragedy underscores the dangerous nature of these hazardous journeys.

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"It also reinforces the need for renewed international solidarity and cooperation to find protection options for people that would help to reduce the need for these perilous journeys by boat," the agency said in a statement.

"UNHCR calls on Australia and countries in the region to redouble their efforts to provide safer and more secure options for people to find protection other than through these dangerous and exploitative boat journeys."

- AAP