Colombo, May 6 (newsin.asia) – Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, on Sunday confirmed that 131 Sri Lankans had been detained in an immigration detention center in Johor Baru, Malaysia with reports indicating that they were illegal immigrants bound for Australia and New Zealand.
“The Royal Malaysian Police Special Branch has confirmed that 131 persons believed to be Sri Lankans have been detained at Tanjung Gamoh, Sedili, in Johor Baru,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
“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 4 persons have been arrested under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act of 2007 and are also detained,” the Ministry added.
The Ministry further said that at present, investigations were still underway, and officials of the Sri Lanka High Commission in Malaysia were working closely with the relevant Malaysian authorities in this connection.
While the identities of the 131 persons are still in the process of being determined, initial information indicate that 43 of the 131 persons arrested hold identity cards issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Ministry said.
According to Malaysian authorities, the tanker carrying the 131 immigrants was halted off the coast of southern Johor state.
The immigrants included 98 men, 24 women and 9 children.
Authorities said these arrests had busted a large human smuggling ring that had been operating for a year.