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Malaysia Thwarts People Smuggling Syndicate Bound For Australia

Australian and Malaysian authorities have intercepted a people smuggling operation bound for the region. 

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton confirmed 34  people from Sri Lanka and India, including men, women and children, were stopped from leaving the west coast of Malaysia on January 4.

The asylum seekers were about to board a boat with the promise of being taken to Australia or New Zealand.

Dutton said people smuggling is an enduring threat across the region.

A boat believed to have up to 180 asylum seekers on board floats on the waters off Christmas Island in 2012. Image: AAP

“As the organisation of this venture demonstrates, criminal people smugglers have not gone away," Dutton said.

"They continue to exploit vulnerable people in our region, including by using the false prospect of settlement in either Australia or New Zealand to market their services."

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According to reports, the syndicate was in the process of purchasing three boat engines for the journey when Royal Malaysian Police stepped in.

Three members of the syndicate were reportedly arrested.

It brings the number of people smuggling ventures disrupted under Operation Sovereign Borders to 80 since September 2013, including 11 in Malaysia, 15 in Sri Lanka, 53 in Indonesia and one in Pakistan.

Dutton thanked Malaysian authorities for their "valuable contribution" to regional efforts combating people smuggling.

"Australia’s approach to combating people smuggling and protecting our border is multi-layered," he said.

"Strong working relationships with our international partners are an important first line of defence and Malaysia is a key partner on this issue.”

Featured image: AAP