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Sri Lanka navy seizes 60 illegal migrants

[AFP, Tuesday, 24 November 2009 08:46 No Comment]

LXBIMxehE2IRQ Sri Lanka’s navy on Tuesday seized two fishing trawlers carrying 60 illegal migrants heading for Australia, a spokesman said.

The two boats were detected off the island’s southern coast while they were moving eastward in the direction of Australia, navy spokesman Athula Senarath said.

"The people on board had paid large sums of money to people smugglers to take them abroad," Senarath said. "The men and the two boats were handed over to the local police at the port of Galle for further investigations."

There has been an increase in the number of Sri Lankans trying to enter Australia and New Zealand illegally in recent months. Many claim political asylum when detected by Australian authorities.

Boats take up to three weeks to reach Australia. However, some travel by air to Indonesia and then take wooden boats from there to the Australian coast.

Last week, dozens of Sri Lankan asylum seekers left an Australian customs ship in Indonesia, ending a three-week protest over their claims for refugee status. The customs ship had rescued them when their boat capsized.

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