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Malaysia foils people-smuggling tanker en route to Australia

131 Sri Lankans aboard
/ 02:09 PM May 08, 2018

Their hopes dashed, the tanker’s human cargo await their fate. Photo from the Malaysia Police via The Island/Asia News Network

A hundred and thirty one Sri Lankans believed to be heading for Australia and New Zealand have been intercepted by Malaysian police, busting a large human smuggling ring that has been operating for over a year.

Authorities halted the modified tanker last week, off the coast of southern Johor state, National Police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said yesterday. He said that the immigrants included 98 men, 24 women, four boys and five girls.

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“Police also raided a fishing boat used to transport the migrants to the vessel and detained three Indonesians and four Malaysians on board. Another five Malaysians were nabbed for suspected involvement in the smuggling syndicate. This syndicate has been operating since mid-2017 and has international connections across Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia,” Fuzi revealed.

A total of 127 Sri Lankans would be charged for entering Malaysia illegally, while nine Malaysians, four Indonesians and four Sri Lankans would be investigated for human smuggling, he added.

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The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said that the Royal Malaysian Police Special Branch confirmed that 131 persons believed to be Sri Lankans had been detained at Tanjung Gamoh, Sedili. “Out of the 131 persons, 127 have been arrested under the Immigration Act 1959/63. They are presently detained at Pekan Nenas Immigration Detention Centre in Johor Baru. The remaining four persons have been arrested under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act of 2007 and are also detained.”

Investigations were underway and officials of the Sri Lanka High Commission in Malaysia are working closely with the relevant Malaysian authorities in this connection. While the identities of the 131 persons were in the process of being determined, initial information indicated that 43 of the 131 persons arrested held identity cards issued by the UN Refugee Agency. Further information regarding the individuals arrested would be shared when available and as appropriate, respecting the need to ensure that information thus shared, did not jeopardize the on going investigations, the Ministry said.

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TAGS: Asia, Australia, Human trafficking, Malaysia, People Smuggling, Sri Lanka
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