Sri Lanka arrests 131 boatpeople heading to Australia
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities arrested another 131 would-be asylum seekers heading to Australia and seized a fishing trawler used for the people-smuggling operation, police and naval officials said on Sunday.
The navy detected the trawler carrying 109 people off the island’s eastern coast on Saturday and it was being escorted to the port of Trincomalee, 260 kilometres northeast of the capital Colombo.
“The men on board were heading for Australia,” a navy official said asking not to be named. “We are handing over these people to the police for further investigations and necessary action.” Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said 22 other people thought to be preparing to leave the island illegally aboard a different trawler were also arrested on Saturday. The number of Sri Lankans detained on charges of illegally trying to leave the country has reached more than 250 over the last week.—AFP