Sri Lankan authorities Wednesday arrested another 41 would-be illegal immigrants heading to Australia in the fourth successful raid in as many days, officials said.
The boat was intercepted off Sri Lanka’s eastern coast on Tuesday and the passengers were escorted to the port of Trincomalee, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of the capital Colombo.
“This boat had 37 men and four women,” a navy official said, asking not to be named. “They had paid large sums of money to people smugglers for the passage (to Australia).”
Three other boats with a total of 192 people have been stopped in the past four days, police say.
The total number of Sri Lankans detained on charges of illegally trying to leave the country has reached more than 350 over the last week, according to police figures.
Australia is facing a steady influx of asylum seekers arriving by boat, many of whom use Indonesia as a transit hub, boarding leaky wooden vessels there after fleeing their home countries.
While most boats originate in Indonesia, there has been a recent spike in the number of attempted crossings from Sri Lanka.
Australia wants to deter boat people by transferring them to Malaysia for processing, in exchange for accepting thousands of Malaysia’s registered refugees for resettlement.
But the minority government has been unable to pass the necessary legislation because of opposition in the Australian parliament.