3 May 2014

Asylum seekers stopped by Sri Lankan navy

6:22 am on 3 May 2014

The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 54 asylum seekers heading by boat to Australia.

Asylum seekers in Navy custody last October.

Asylum seekers in Navy custody last October. Photo: AFP

The navy said a fishing trawler was detected off the northeastern coast of the island on Friday. They passengers included 11 women and 13 children.

The passengers, who said they were travelling to Australia, were handed to the police.

In February, police in Sri Lanka arrested 75 people who were trying to travel illegally by boat to New Zealand.

The ABC reports the last significant pick-ups were in October, when 70 Sri Lankans were arrested by the navy off the southern coast of Galle.

Many Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are ethnic Tamils who claim persecution at home.

Australia has sent back dozens of Sri Lankan nationals who tried to enter the country illegally.