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70 rescued from boat heading to Australia

2013 Jul 25

Seventy Sri Lankans attempting to migrate illegally to Australia were rescued Wednesday after the timely intervention of the Navy, an official said.



The illegal migrants were rescued off a fishing vessel by merchant ships in international waters after the Sri Lankan Navy sent out messages, Navy Spokesman, Kosala Warnakulasuriya, told media.

"We believe that the fishing vessel left the southern seaport of Galle earlier this week. Since it had already crossed over to international waters it was difficult for us to retrieve it. Therefore, we sent out messages to merchant ships plying the route to rescue the people," he said.



Once the Sri Lankans were retrieved they were brought to the maritime boundary line, which separates international and Sri Lankan waters, and handed over to the Navy.

Warnakulasuriya said investigations into the people smugglers involved in the incident are underway.



Despite the end of the three decade war in 2009, the number of Sri Lankan asylum seekers has increased, pushing the Australian Government to take tough measures to prevent them from entering the country.



Nearly 1,300 Sri Lankans have been sent back by the Australian Government after failed attempts to illegally migrate via boat. At least another 1,500 have been arrested by the Navy, while attempting to leave Sri Lanka by the same means of transport.



The Australian Government is working closely with the Sri Lankan Navy to monitor and prevent people boating from Sri Lanka and has implemented awareness programmes to discourage locals from attempting to migrate illegally.


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