Colombo, July 16: The Sri Lankan Navy has detained about 250 nationals who were trying to flee the country to Australia.
A total of 232 Sri Lankans, including public employees and children were detained last week by the navy, Xinhua quoted a Sri Lankan official as saying Monday.
According to a Sri Lankan Navy spokesman, at least 16 public officials including a policeman were arrested by the navy off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka Saturday. They were among a group of 109 people attempting to smuggle themselves into Australia.
“This is the largest number of people that we have taken into custody. They were handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department of the police who will be conducting investigations,” said Kosala Warnakulasuriya.
Last Friday, five children were among a boatload of 41 asylum seekers that were detained 15 nautical miles into the sea.
The number of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka has increased in 2012, with most of them trying to illegally enter Australia.
Last month, over 90 people died after two boats capsized near Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.
Australian authorities have reported that over the past three weeks asylum seeker numbers have trebled, hitting the same digits as in 2009.