They were trying migrate to Australia

The City police team, which detained 16 Sri Lankans attempting to illegally migrate to Australia, took custody of the boat they were to leave in.

The 58-ft. fishing boat, named Sea Queen, was berthed at Murukumpadam, Njarakkal. Police sources said it would have taken 15 to 20 days to reach the destination in this sea-faring fishing boat, with a capacity of 50 people and 8,000 litre diesel.

Unauthorised stay

The police also produced four of those detained as accused on charges of unauthorised stay in the country and cheating. Most of them were from refugee camps in Tamil Nadu.

The accused were identified as Sivam Pillai, 33, of Anuradhapuram, Sri Lanka; Nagaranjan, 32, alias Ranjan, from 29/5, Udayar Lane, Jaffna, Sri Lanka and presently staying at A9/25, SLR Camp, Kottupattu, Trichy; Murukanandan, 31, of Malayara Junction, Ettam Vattaram, Mannarmavattom, Pesalai, Sri Lanka and presently staying at Madurai; and Ganesalingam, 47, of Periya Kallar, Alaydi, Kettikalai, Sri Lanka.

On the lookout

The police are on the look out for the agent S. Senthiran, whose address is yet to be traced. All others, including two children, will be listed as witnesses. The accused were produced before Chief Judicial Magistrate court on Wednesday evening and the police are seeking their custody for further probe.

“It is really difficult to identity Sri Lankans, as they look just like Tamil fishermen coming to our coast for fishing. Arrests like these are made on specific information. This is why, we have requested for the implementation of the national registration grid and identification equipment for fishing vessels operating along the Indian coast,” Jacob Punnoose, Director-General of Police, told The Hindu.

Ample cover

Nearly 96 per cent of the local fishing boats have been registered with the State government. But fishing boats mostly from Tamil Nadu towns like Kulachal operate along the State coast, providing ample cover for illegal immigrants. They are then taken out in smaller boats, or sea-faring fishing vessels to uninhabited islands near island nations such as Indonesia.

Last year, 38 Sri Lankans were detained in Kollam, while waiting to take to the sea. The group that was detained was held up in the city due to inclement weather. Police said they would have left the State coast on Wednesday had they not been detected.

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