The Sri Lankan Navy on Monday nabbed 65 illegal immigrants to Australia, who had reportedly left from Kochi.
Sri Lankan Naval spokesperson Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya said they were arrested off the southern coast of Hikkaduwa in the island nation and were taken to the port in Galle where they were handed over to the police’s Terrorism Investigation Division.
The boat carrying the group members left for Australia from Kochi, claimed the Naval officials.
It was only last month that the Kochi police arrested a group of 10 Sri Lankan natives, including a minor, when they were about to board a vessel bound for Australia.
They were planning to illegally migrate to that country. They were caught from a lodge in Aluva and cash to the tune of nearly `2 lakh and about five mobile phones were also seized from them. The search is still on for the agent who allegedly planned their illegal ferry to Australia.
According to police, they were Sri Lankan refugees, who had been in relief camps at various centres in Tamil Nadu. The police said according to the plan, they were to board a small fishing boat in Kochi, which was to take them to the outer sea where they would be transferred to a larger vessel.
The refugees who were arrested at Aluva told the police that they had not seen the agent. But, they had paid money to him as he promised jobs in Australia and the transactions were carried out on the basis of instructions given via mobile phone.
In another incident around the same time, 88 Sri Lankan refugees were stopped from migrating to Australia by the Mangalore city and Dakshina Kannada police. They were trying to take a boat from the old port at Mangalore.
It has been pointed out that the Kerala is one of the major centres in South Asia from where the immigrants go to Australia. The police also suspect the operation on a racket to smuggle people to Australia.
A team from Tamil Nadu Police ‘Q’ Branch is also on the task to track the agent and burst the racket. The ‘Q’ Branch has been hunting for the brain behind the racket that smuggle people to Australia in country-made boats and vessels.
The risky voyages to Australia carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers happen often despite action jointly launched by Sri Lankan and Australian authorities. Australia since August had sent back over 1000 Sri Lankan illegal immigrants.