The Sri Lankan police on Wednesday arrested 35 suspected asylum seekers who were on a fishing boat off the southern town of Weligama.
The police said that the people on the boat were minority Tamils and residents of the north of Sri Lanka and are aged between 30-40 years.
Investigations revealed that the Tamils are residents of Jaffna, Mankulam, Chavakacheri, Olumadu, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Odusudan and Malavi, towns which were affected by a 30 year war in Sri Lanka.
The police suspect that the people on the boat were preparing to leave for a foreign country by sea illegally when they were spotted by the navy.
People traveling by boat to Australia and India to seek asylum was a common occurrence during the war between Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lanka army.
The war ended in May 2009 but the flow of illegal asylum seekers leaving Sri Lankan shores continued. The Australian government later took strict measures to prevent boat people from reaching their shores and this saw a sharp decline in people leaving Sri Lanka by boat to seek asylum.
Wednesday’s arrest of suspected illegal asylum seekers in Sri Lanka is the first since the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena took office last month.