Police arrest 44 asylum seekers

The police arrested 44 people today who were preparing to head to Australia from Aluthgama by boat.
A police official said that the 44 people were arrested after three vans transporting them to a location were checked on suspicion in Kaluwanmodara.
Among those found in the van were 5 women and 4 children, the police official said.
Those arrested were residents of Killinochchi, Vavuniya and Vakarai.
Just yesterday the Sri Lanka Navy said it had intercepted a boat with 61 people illegally bound for Australia.
The multi-day trawler named “Madushan II” was intercepted by a Sri Lanka Navy’s Fast Naval Patrol Craft attached to the Eastern Naval Command off Batticaloa.
Among the arrested persons are 60 Tamils and 01 Sinhalese that included 43 men, 08 women and 10 children.
They were brought to the Trincomalee Harbour to be handed over to the harbour Police for further investigations. 
The Australian Government had this week said it returned more than 1000 Sri Lankan irregular maritime arrivals.
Since August 13 last year, 1004 Sri Lankans who arrived as irregular maritime arrivals have departed Australia – 795 of them involuntarily.
“Returning this group to Sri Lanka sends the powerful message that people who pay smugglers are throwing their money away and risking their lives in the process,” Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor said.
“There is no fast track to Australia – irrespective of whether someone arrives at an excised offshore place; if they do not engage Australia’s protection obligations, they will be returned home.
“Where it is determined that claims do not engage Australia’s international obligations, the person will be removed from Australia at the earliest opportunity,” O’Connor said.
People returned involuntarily do not have access to reintegration assistance. (Colombo Gazette)