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Malaysia detains 75 Sri Lankans after standoff: police

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 (AFP) - Malaysian police Monday said they have detained 75 Sri Lankan migrants who refused to get off a fishing trawler, after three days of talks to persuade them to leave the vessel broke down.

The trawler was intercepted off northern Perak state on Friday but the group, including six women and eight children, refused to leave the boat, northern region marine police chief Zainal Abidin Hasan said

"We towed the fishing trawler into our police base jetty as the vessel had at least five leaks and it was damaged and could sink but they still refused to get off," he added.

Zainal said the group wanted a guarantee that they would get asylum in a third country such as Australia, Canada or New Zealand, but the talks eventually failed on Sunday.

"We even had UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials here to verify their status but the Sri Lankans were not convinced and the talks broke down, so we had no choice but to detain them," he said.

Zainal added that police were investigating the owner of the Malaysian-registered trawler, saying they believe the Sri Lankans were being smuggled by a human trafficking syndicate.

Immigration activists say Malaysia is often used as a staging post for trafficking gangs moving people from Myanmar, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to Indonesia and Australia.

Last month Malaysia announced plans to reduce the 1.9 million foreign workers in the country and last week unveiled a national plan to combat human trafficking.

Malaysian police last July arrested five immigration officials for involvement in an international syndicate that smuggled refugees from Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority into the country.

Malaysia has one of Asia's largest populations of foreign labourers, whom it relies on to work as domestic servants and in plantations and factories.

MySinchew 2010.04.26


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