People-smuggling syndicate smashed: Dutton

Malaysian police found a rusty tanker with 131 Sri Lankans believed to bound for Australia

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has backed the importance of border security after a people-smuggling syndicate with links to Australia was smashed by Malaysian police.

More than 130 Sri Lankans believed to be heading for Australia and New Zealand were intercepted when authorities halted the modified tanker on Tuesday off the coast of southern Johor state, national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

He said the immigrants included 98 men, 24 women, four boys and five girls.

Mr Dutton said it was clear the threat of people smuggling syndicates remained and it was important to keep Australia's borders strong.

Police also raided a fishing boat used to transport the migrants to the vessel and detained three Indonesians and four Malaysians on board, he said. Another five Malaysians were nabbed for suspected involving in the smuggling syndicate.

A total of 127 Sri Lankans will be charged for entering Malaysia illegally while nine Malaysians, four Indonesians and four Sri Lankans will be investigated for human smuggling, Fuzi added.