KOCHI: Agencies here are probing the suspected trafficking of 40 non-Keralites in a fishing vessel to Australia from Ernakulam district, official sources said Monday.
The trafficked people, including women and newborns, had left their resorts and home stays in Cherai and Munambam coastal areas of the district on January 12, they said.
The agencies, including Kerala Police and Intelligence Bureau, are probing whether the people who took rooms in the resorts and home stays on January 5, providing Delhi addresses, had left the coast in the boat that day or not, sources said.
If they had done so, it would be a clear case of human trafficking to Australia because similar attempts were made a couple of years back from Munambam but in vain, they added.
Police said the assistance of the Coast Guard had been sought to trace the vessel, 'Dayamatha', purchased recently by two persons-- one from Tamil Nadu and another a Keralite.
Initial investigation found that one of the addresses given by the boat owners was fake, they said.
Police said the addresses and proof of identity recovered from the resorts and home stays revealed that the 40 people were of Tamil origin.
The probe began after locals informed the police about some abandoned bags that they had found in Cherai and Munambam areas.
Police said they were also investigating another incident of abandoned bags found Monday in Kodungallur in Thrissur district.
Multiple agencies are involved in the investigation, a top official told PTI.
In 2015, Australia had made it clear that people who attempt to travel illegally to the country by sea would not be allowed to settle there.
The country's Consul-General to south India had further stressed that anyone who survived the journey would be intercepted and transferred to Regional Processing Centres in Nauru or Manus Island (in Papua New Guinea).
The statement came after the Kerala Police busted a racket of Sri Lankan refugees being trafficked from Tamil Nadu to Australia in 2015.
Nine refugees and four local agents were arrested that year at Munambam from where they were to be trafficked to the Australian coast by a fishing vessel.