COLOMBO, April 21 (Xinhua) — The Sri Lankan navy on Sunday arrested 80 people off the northern town of Jaffna as they were heading to Australia by boat, navy spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya said.
He said that the illegal asylum seekers, all minority Tamils, were spotted by navy boats north of Point Pedro and in Jaffna.
Among those on the boat were 38 men, 18 women and 24 children, the navy spokesman said.
Last Thursday the police arrested 44 people who were preparing to head to Australia from the southern town of Aluthgama by boat.
The 44 people were arrested after three vans transporting them to a location were checked on suspicion. Among those found in the van were 5 women and 4 children, the police official said.
Also last week the Sri Lankan navy intercepted a boat with 61 people illegally bound for Australia.
The multi-day trawler was intercepted by the navy’s Fast Naval Patrol Craft off Batticaloa in the east of the island.
The Australian government said last week that it returned more than 1,000 Sri Lankan irregular maritime arrivals since August 13 last year.
“Returning this group to Sri Lanka sends the powerful message that people who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process,” Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor said.