Colombo – Forty-four Tamils heading to Australia illegally were arrested in a boat off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka by the Asian country’s navy on Sunday, officials said.
The illegal immigrants and a multi-day fishing trawler were detected off Kalmunai, 320 kilometres east of the capital, a naval spokesman said.
The trawler had departed from the western coast of Negombo, the spokesman said, adding that it is believed the migrants boarded the vessel from a different location.
Sri Lankans, most of them minority Tamils, continue to make risky efforts to reach Australia despite warnings by the navy and campaigns about the dangers of the journey.
In May this year Australia turned to Malaysia for a solution to the problem of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, with Malaysia agreeing to take any illegal migrants arriving in Australia.
Some Sri Lankan Tamils have also made successful attempts to enter Canada illegally.
Some of the would-be immigrants have been affected by the 26-year ethnic conflict that ended in May 2009, but others are economic refugees.