Colombo, July 17 (): In the third occurrence of its kind in just two days, the Sri Lankan Navy on Monday arrested 61 probable asylum-seekers heading to Australia. The Navy confiscated their fishing trawler, police and naval officials said.
A Navy official, wishing to remain anonymous said that the boat had 61 men bound for Australia.
The latest vessel said to be carrying illegal migrants was intercepted by the Sri Lankan Navy officials off the island’s eastern coast and was then escorted to the naval port of Trincomalee, 260 kilometres, and north-east of the capital Colombo. The navy did not state if the boat was heading to a temporary destination or directly to Australia, which is roughly 3,200 kilometres away.
This latest finding comes a day after 131 people were arrested in two separate incidents of trying to leave the island illegally, police said. The number of Sri Lankans detained on charges of illegally attempting to leave the country has reached more than 315 over the last week.
Using Indonesia as a transit hub, many asylum seekers flee their home countries boarding unstable and leaky wooden vessels, facing obvious dangers of drowning in sea waters. Some 94 people are believed to have drowned after two boats sank in recent weeks.
Australia, said to be the safe haven for such asylum-seekers faces a steady influx of refugees who arrive by boat. Though most of the boats are said to originate from Indonesia, there has been a steady increase in attempted passages from Sri Lanka.
Australia wants to put off ‘boat people’ by transferring them to Malaysia for processing, in exchange for taking in thousands of Malaysia’s registered refugees for relocation. But the minority government has been unable to pass the required legislation that faces opposition in the Australian parliament.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Refugee Council of Australia states that it has never been illegal in Australia to arrive on coast without a visa seeking refuge. In actual fact, it is one of the rights within the UN’s declarations on refugees which Australia helped to write.