File photo showing African migrants.

Colombo -

The Sri Lanka navy rescued 52 migrants on Sunday who were stranded without food and drinking water off the southern coast of the country, an official said.

The group of men mostly from the northern part of the country had been abandoned after the trawler developed engine failure en route to Australia, navy spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya said.

They were brought to a southern harbour and at least four of them were taken to a hospital for emergency treatment.

“We left from the north-western coast on July 26 and after sailing for about 20 days the trawler developed engine failure,” Sumudu Shirantha said. “The five members of the crew called for another fishing boat and left, promising to come back, but they never returned.

“We ran out of drinking water and food. We collected rainwater and managed by eating fish,” he said.

Illegal migration from Sri Lanka to Australia has been on the rise in recent months. At least 1 500 people have arrested this year. - Sapa-dpa