Sri Lanka arrests 32 migrants heading for New Zealand

August 6, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan police arrested 32 men who were illegally trying to leave for New Zealand by boat, an official said Thursday. The men were taken into custody late Wednesday on the island’s western coast of Seeduwa from where they planned to set off for New Zealand in a fishing trawler, senior police superintendant Ranjith Gunasekara said.

The men had each paid 300,000 rupees (2,600 dollars) to an agent for the trip, he said, adding that police have yet to arrest those who organised the illegal journey.

Sri Lankans are often caught seeking to migrate to other countries in unseaworthy boats with few provisions.

People smuggling to Europe and the Far East is often carried out in fishing boats.

Deep freezers are converted to cramped living quarters for the illegal immigrants who usually spend about a month at sea before reaching the promised destination.

Italy and Australia have been favourite destinations of people smugglers, but some have ended up in Japan and European countries as well. Hundreds have also reportedly drowned when their boats capsized.

In May, Indonesian police intercepted a b