The Kerala Police has arrested 14 Sri Lankans and 9 refugees during the past two days from South Kerala’s Kollam for allegedly attempting to migrate to Australia and Canada via fishing boats.
Talking to the Hindustan Times, Kollam city police commissioner Merin Joseph said these illegal migrants were moving in small batches from one place to another to avoid detection and they stayed in different places as tourists in the past two weeks.
“It seems an international trafficking racket is behind it. We have identified some local people who helped them. We have some leads on the vessel they were planning to board. A clear picture will emerge only after detailed investigation,” she said, adding the arrested were charged under different sections of the human trafficking act and foreigners’ act.
“Initially intelligence wing of the Tamil Nadu police Q Branch provided us some intelligence leads. We are sharing information with them. We have identified some more batches and local people who helped them. More arrests will be there in coming days,” she said.
On Monday, 11 people were arrested after a tip off from the Q Branch. Two natives of Trincomalee – Antony Kesavan and Pavithran – had arrived in Chennai on tourist visa on Aug 19. Later, they were reported missing and Q Branch located their location in south Kerala and alerted their Kerala counterparts about a possible migration racket.
During questioning, some of them reportedly told police that they were shifted to Kerala after their plan to board a fishing vessel from Karaikal port in Puducherry failed. They said most of them paid 3 lakh to 10 lakh Sri Lankan rupees to agent called Lakshmana in Colombo so as to ensure their smooth trip to Canada or Australia by shipping boats from the southern coast of India.
Police suspect more people are staying discreetly in other parts of the state and alerted all district police superintendents. Police suspect that they took Kerala coast after heightened vigil along Tamil Nadu coast after economic unrest in Sri Lanka. In July, Sri Lankan navy had arrested 64 persons, mostly of Tamil origin, suspected to be trying to illegally migrate to Australia in a fishing trawler.
In 2019, 41 people including women and children from Sri Lanka seem to have left for Australia in a fishing boat from Munambam port in Kochi. Police came to know about their voyage after they recovered some bags reportedly abandoned by them.
After police alert a joint team of Navy and Coast Guards started a joint operation to trace the fishing boat but by that time it reportedly crossed the Indian waters. Traffickers had taken an unnoticed port to dodge authorities. Documents recovered from the dumped bags showed voyagers stayed around Kochi in groups of ten and some of them reached Kochi via New Delhi.