The Sri Lanka Navy arrested another 47 would-be illegal asylum seekers as they were heading to Australia by boat late last night.
According to a navy spokesman the 47 people were nabbed off the seas of Negombo and are now being brought ashore.
Meanwhile the Australian media reported that Sri Lanka wants Australia to send back asylum seekers in large numbers, to deter people smugglers.
Senior Sri Lankan naval officials have also asked for the loan of a boat to bolster patrol operations in an area people smugglers are known to travel through.
Sri Lankan naval operations director Commodore N. Attygalle said the country would have no problem helping Australia turn boats around – as proposed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott – but its small navy needed assistance and extra resources to do so.
“If (Australia) turns the boats around, then these guys will just pull the plug, the boats will start sinking and you will have to assist them because it’s in your waters,” he told The Weekend Australian.
“So the best way is deportation.”
Commodore Attygalle explained that his country’s navy was too small at the moment to deal with the problem and needed the loan of ocean-going operational vessel to extend the range of its patrols.
Naval intelligence director Nishantha Ulugetenne has called for more cooperation between Australian and Sri Lankan immigration, customs and border protection services.
“When you start deporting, then this problem will ease for us,” Commodore Ulugetenne said.
“Sending just one man back from Australia will not help. More than 1500 Sri Lankans have landed in Australia in the last six months. What are you going to do with them? Screen them one by one?”