A group of 78 Sri Lankans who were attempting to sail to Australia illegally by boat were intercepted and taken into custody by the Sri Lanka Navy in the early hours of Friday (26) morning.

Speaking to The Nation, Navy Spokesman Commander Indika Silva said the suspected illegal migrants were intercepted by a navy offshore patrol vessel some 65 nautical miles off the coast of Kirinda at around 12.30am.

Those on board comprised 59 Tamils and 17 Sinhalese, while the other two were the boat’s crew. The group comprised 60 adult males, seven adult females and 11 children. Commander Silva said the vessel was being escorted to Galle Harbor where the suspects would be handed over to the police.

The Navy spokesman noted that this was the first such vessel filled with illegal migrants intercepted by the Navy after a lengthy absence of such journeys. The last such vessel had been intercepted in February.