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Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 14:43 UK

People smuggler crewed Tamil boat

Sri Lankan migrants in Indonesia
The migrants were hoping to make their way to Australia

A convicted people smuggler has been found among a boat-load of more than 250 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, Australia's foreign minister has said.

Stephen Smith said the people smuggler, Abraham Lauhenaspessy, also known as Captain Bram, had been arrested by Indonesian police.

The Sri Lankans, intercepted by Indonesia on their way to Australia, are currently being held in Java.

Captain Bram is believed to have smuggled 1,500 people into Australia.

He was arrested in 2007 in Indonesia after a joint Australian-Indonesian operation and sentenced to two years in jail.

"He is well known to Australian and Indonesian authorities," said Mr Smith.

The news of his latest arrest came as another boat carrying suspected asylum seekers was picked up heading to Australia - the third in as many days.

Hunger strike

The 254 Sri Lankans, who are all ethnic Tamils, have ended a hunger strike staged to highlight their plight but are still refusing to leave their boat.

They have agreed to meet with representatives of the UN's refugee agency.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said their individual cases should be processed by the United Nations.

Map

He and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith are in Jakarta for the inauguration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono and for talks that will include people smuggling.

There has been a tenfold increase this year in the number of asylum seekers reaching Australian waters, and the opposition blames the government for relaxing its refugee laws.

A spokesman for the Tamil asylum seekers said Captain Bram had betrayed his passengers after missing a rendez-vous with a smaller boat that was to have taken him back to Indonesia.

He insisted on turning back to Indonesia after nearing the Australian territory of Christmas Island to avoid being detained by Australian authorities, the spokesman, Alex, said.

The boat was then intercepted by the Indonesian navy on 11 October following a personal plea from Mr Rudd to Mr Yudhyono.

The Tamils were reported to have paid $15,000 (£9,200) each for their transport.



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