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    Tamil Nadu police holds 12 Lankan Tamils escaping to Australia

    A new and scary dimension is now added to the long-standing problem of the trafficking of Sri Lankan Tamils to Australia by rickety boats, as the Tamil Nadu police on Monday arrested nine such ‘dollar-hunters’ from a lodge at Tiruchendur. The scary aspect is that these were not the usual Lankan refugees from the 110 camps scattered across the state lured by the unscrupulous agents promising safe voyage to the dreamland but were from Sri Lanka.

    They had arrived from Colombo on tourist visa as part of a larger group, claiming to be pilgrims visiting shrines of Tamil Nadu but with the actual intent of sailing to Australia, a senior official of the ‘Q’ branch police, which deals with the issues related to the foreigners, refugees and extremists, told DC. He said following a tip-off, his men nabbed the nine Lankans — Gopinath, (32), his wife Shobana, (26), Dhayabaran, (45), Guruvintham, (25), Dharshan, (25), Sathyaseelan, (32), Dhayananthan, (35), Shantha Rooban, (35) and Robin
    Prasad, (25), in their rooms at a lodge at about 2.30 a.m.

    They told the police they had arrived from Colombo by air on June 2 and after completing the ‘pilgrimage’ lap of Velankanni-Palani-Madurai, landed in Tiruchendur on June 25 (Saturday) for worshiping at the Murugan temple and getting ready for the Australian voyage. Their trafficker had arranged for a boat from Muttam (Kanyakumari district) for their escape from a secret beach near Kollam (Kerala). They also revealed that 19 more Lankan Tamils were waiting at Chinnamuttom and Colachel in Kanyakumari district to join them on the trip. The ‘Q’ police immediately rushed to Colachel, along with the nine arrested Lankan Tamils, to get the rest of the hiding group.

    Ultimately, 13 persons were taken into custody, including three Lankan Tamil refugees from camps in Tamil Nadu and one local human trafficking agent. “These people are being taken for a ride by unscrupulous agents promising to reach them to Australia as refugees. They can never pass off refugees as the situation in Sri Lanka is no longer the same as it used to be before the Eelam war ended. The Tamils who came from Colombo, arrived with passports and tourist visas, and want to sneak off to Australia as refugees,” said another senior police officer, sounding bitter.

    “Already, we are facing huge problem keeping close watch on the 110 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu and the long coastline we have to ensure that the unscrupulous agents do not take off from secret locations with their human traffic to Australia. You have seen we have been making arrests every now and then,” he said. “The government must promulgate an ordinance to make this trafficking severely punishable, if we must stop this scourge that has already seen over 600 people perish in high seas on such perilous journeys,” said S.C.

    Chandrahasan of the Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERR), a long campaigner against the human traffickers. “This crime has been one thing, so far, where the concerned get caught a number of times and yet walk out free, get back to their camps. This must stop”. According to Chandrahasan, many of these agents — “they are unscrupulous criminal people, mostly Sri Lankan Tamils” — are able to hook their victims telling them they could also lead comfortable ‘dollar-happy’ lives in Australia where their kin had found shelter before 2012.
    Though Australia has now firmly closed its shores to boat people, these agents are able to convince their prey that the upcoming elections in that country would throw up a government sympathetic to the Lankan Tamil refugees.

    “We have been trying for long to counsel these refugees in the camps here not to trust these liars. The government and the officials here also are doing their best to prevent our people from losing their money to the agents and losing their lives to the sea. This new trend of the (Lankan) Tamil people coming here disguised as pilgrims and actually planning to head for Australia is truly disturbing,” said the noted Lankan human rights activist.

    Courtesy – Deccan Chronicle

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