KOCHI: Police officers of Munambam police station are busy checking vacant plots and conducting surprise inspections at the fishing harbour as well as the yards where boats are constructed to keep a check on illegal migrants.
“We are on alert as Munambam has always been a boarding point for Sri Lankan Tamils to illegally migrate to other countries via sea,” said Munambam inspector A L Yesudas. Munambam’s connection with Sri Lankan Tamils dates back to LTTE years as it was from a boatyard at Munambam in 2008 that the Kerala police seized a boat that was being constructed for LTTE.
Over the years, the fishing village has witnessed hundreds of Sri Lankan nationals using the sea route to illegally migrate to Australia with the help of rackets that arrange fishing boats from the area for the purpose. Despite the huge risk of getting battered by the rough sea and the possibility of drowning, the migrants try to make it to Australia undetected.
“We still don’t know whether migrants who left from the Munambam coast ever reached their destination. The rackets arrange the boat and stock it with necessary food for the travellers. There is no guide or even drivers on the boats. They train three or four young illegal immigrants to man the boats,” said a local resident.
Munambam harbour is favoured by the rackets due to the increased presence of fishermen from Colachel in Tamil Nadu and because hundreds of boats from Tamil Nadu and other Kerala coast converge here every day. The illegal migration route is a thriving business for many agents as they collect close to `1 lakh from each person for a spot in the boat. For years, a few local residents helped the rackets by arranging accommodation, food and water for the Sri Lankan nationals as it’s easy money for them.