Australia says asylum seekers target New Zealand backdoor

An Australian government minister says people smugglers were now marketing New Zealand as a back door into Australia, after Malaysian authorities intercepted a boat carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

Malaysian police said in a statement more than 130 Sri Lankans believed to be heading for Australia and New Zealand were intercepted when Malaysian authorities halted the modified tanker on Tuesday off the coast of southern Johor state.

Australia's Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton told reporters on Monday that Australian authorities had been working with the Malaysians to prevent the ship reaching Australian or New Zealand.

Australia pays the poor Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to keep asylum seekers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa in immigration camps indefinitely.