Marine police seized two suspected people smugglers early yesterday - the first such arrest since a court ruling in March that asylum seekers did not break the law by taking work led to a surge in the number of non-Chinese illegal immigrants. The two mainland men, detained after a high-speed sea chase, are suspected of smuggling nine Pakistani men, all of whom have since claimed asylum, police said. Officers spotted a speedboat carrying 11 men head for the Ninepin Islands at about 5.20am. About 10 minutes later, the boat beached on one of the islands and nine men climbed out. As police approached, two mainlanders fled in the speedboat. Officers arrested the nine Pakistanis on the beach and two police craft chased the speedboat. After an eight-minute pursuit, police stopped the speedboat. Initial investigation showed that they came from Huidong in Guangdong province. About 530 illegal immigrants from South Asia were arrested between March and June, compared to 32 in January, 41 in February and 964 in the whole of last year. Superintendent John Cameron, head of the marine police's small boat division, said people-smuggling syndicates were exploiting the situation after the Court of First Instance ruled that Pakistani asylum seekers arrested for taking up work had not broken the law. In most cases, the illegal immigrants called police after being left in remote locations, the superintendent said. He said police had increased intelligence-led operations and enhanced communications with mainland authorities. Police have said that more than 90 per cent of the arrested illegal immigrants from South Asia were found to have come by sea from Shenzhen.