Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 5 August 2012





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Police check spate of human trafficking

A wave after wave of boatloads of people mostly Sri Lankans have made valiant attempts to travel illegally to the Christmas Island coming under the sovereignty of the Australian government. It has been found that all the boats had left the Sri Lankan shores during the past few years. But alarmingly the intensity of the trips had increased following the defeat of the LTTE. However, a few boats were able to evade the Coast Guard and reach Christmas Islands while other boats were intercepted by the Australian Coast Guard in the Indian Ocean.

Many had undertaken the perilous voyage in rickety boats risking their lives not because they were being ill treated and persecuted at home but to seek economic benefits in Australia. People in the North and East have been lured by racketeers to flee the country by promising them a safe haven in Australia. People become gullible to false propaganda spread by racketeers when they paint a rosy picture, a senior police officer said.

In most cases people dispose of their valuable possessions such as lands and jewellery to pay for the voyage. Wealthy businessmen have been responsible for organising illegal trips to the Christmas Island for a considerable period and it has become a multi million rupee racket. Millions of rupees have been fleeced from unsuspecting people, police said. Unfortunately, some of them have managed to stay afloat by only surrendering those who work for them.

Last week, a group of people fell into a rut when they were apprehended by Naval patrols off the coasts of Wennappuwa and Negombo. There were 69 Sri Lankans altogether sailing towards Christmas Island in two separate boats. One trawler with 44 people were found in the deep seas, 12 nautical miles off the coast of Negombo. Another trawler carrying 25 people was found 15 nautical miles off the coast off Wennappuwa. The Naval patrol boats detected the boats carrying illegal immigrants in the wee hours of the dawn. Apparently the men were Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese from areas such as Negombo, Chilaw, Jaffna and Kilinochchi. Each of them had doled out Rs. 7 lakhs each to the organisers to take them to Christmas Island. The Naval patrols found additional supplies of dry rations and bottles of water in both vessels.

According to the police, human traffickers adopt various ruses when such operations are planned. The operations are usually carried out from dusk to dawn to avoid being detected by the police and those who live in the belt as a precaution. Their modus operandi is to take people in small boats to huge trawlers anchored in the deep sea before the commencement of the voyage.

The suspects have been handed over to the police for further investigations. Another human trafficking operation was reported on July 13 from Trincomalee when the Navy apprehended 41 people in a trawler named Mihiri Putha in the deep sea off the Trincomalee coast heading towards Christmas Island.

Two naval patrol crafts were used in the operation to intercept the vessel. Those arrested people have been handed over to the Trincomalee police for further investigations.The most daring human trafficking operation happened two months ago when 113 Sri Lankans mostly Tamil speaking people were making preparations to sail to Australia. The men were to be transported to the Wennnapuwa beach last week.

The Fraud Bureau sleuths who got wind of the illegal operation launched a massive search operation and arrested the suspects. The timely action taken by the Director Fraud Bureau, SSP J.A.K.A Mark prevented the exodus of men landing in Christmas Island. The suspects were from Mannar, Chilaw, Negombo and Udappuwa. Of the 113 suspects 109 were Tamil -speaking men. Others were three Sinhalese men and a Muslim man.

The men had earlier gathered at Galle Face Green, Colombo and at Negombo and were transported to Udappuwa where they boarded a trawler sailing to Christmas Island. Seven Dolphin vans and a lorry were used to transport them to Udappuwa. The mastermind was a wealthy businessman from Chilaw police said. Each man had paid him Rs. 15 lakhs.

The man had collected Rs. 316 lakhs from them. While the police were successful in apprehending the suspects another boat carrying illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka landed in Christmas Island last month, police said.Another nine boats carrying 450 people from Sri Lanka entered Christmas Island illegally during the past 12 months. Last month the Uppuveli police arrested six people who attempted to migrate to Australia illegally. The boat carrying them turned back following a dispute the men had with the organiser of the trip. On a tip off the police found several birth certificates and photographs of the young men aged between 25-30 all residents of Trincomalee. They were arrested while hiding in their homes.

Two years ago, 40 males, 12 females and six children from the Northern and from the Eastern provinces were arrested by the Negombo police when they attempted to flee the country in a boat bound for Australia.

The trawler in which they were to sail was later found abandoned at Ambakandawila in the Chilaw area with 6,000 litres of fuel and a consignment of food stuff. Police said the victims were from Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Batticaloa.

They had planned to migrate illegally. Each had paid Rs.1 lakh as an advance to the smugglers and had agreed to pay a further of Rs. 3 lakhs after the voyage.



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