Police in Sri Lanka say they have detained 40 people who were attempting to board two small boats at the start of a voyage to Australia.
The 40 people were arrested in the eastern district of Batticaloa on Thursday night (local time).
All were Sri Lankan nationals and included a woman and two children.
Police spokesman say they had been about to board two small boats taking them to a larger vessel that would make the journey to Australia.
The ABC reports each person had paid up to $A2000 to make the trip.
In the past five weeks more than 2000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia on 29 boats.