COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s navy intercepted a boat carrying 30 Rohingya refugees who had been living in India and two suspected Indian traffickers after they tried to enter the country illegally, police said on Monday.
The island nation’s navy and coastguard stopped the boat and its human cargo, which included 16 children, off Sri Lanka’s northern shores on Sunday, police spokesman Priyantha Jayakody said.
“The 32 people were produced before the magistrate on Monday, who remanded them until May 2,” he told Reuters. “They have lived in India for more than five years.”
A local human rights official who met the Burmese refugees said their planned final destination had been Australia, which lies more than 4,200 miles from Sri Lanka.
“They said they got refugee status in New Delhi after coming to India five years back, via Bangladesh. They are from six families,” the official said, asking not to be named.
Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled predominantly Buddhist Burma since 2012. Refugees, residents and human rights groups say Burma forces have committed summary executions, raped women and burned homes.
More than 1 million Rohingya live in apartheid-like conditions in Burma’s Rakhine State, where many in the Buddhist majority consider them interlopers from Bangladesh.
About 69,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October, straining relations between the two neighbors who each see the stateless Muslim minority as the other nation’s problem.