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Sri Lanka arrests 67 suspected of illegal sea travel

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (AP) – Sri Lanka’s navy said yesterday it arrested 67 people who it believes were trying to travel by sea to Australia illegally.

The navy said in a statement that 12 men were arrested first near the port town of Trincomalee, 260 kilometres northeast of the capital Colombo on Monday and, upon questioning them, intercepted 55 more people travelling in a fishing vessel. It said the persons were aged between three and 53, and that five of them are suspected be part of a human smuggling ring.

Navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said while their destination is still not clear it is suspected that they were headed to Australia.

Police were still determining the motivation for the illegal voyage, de Silva said, but Sri Lankans over the years have travelled to Australia and other developed nations illegally for economic and political reasons.

Australian media reported yesterday officials sent 15 people back to Sri Lanka last Saturday after they were found travelling in a boat near Christmas Island.

Police bring a group of people attempting to travel illegally to Australia, to a police station in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. PHOTO: AP