Twenty-one Rameswaram fishermen who were held by the Sri Lankan navy for allegedly straying into Sri Lankan waters returned home on Friday. They were taken back from the international maritime boundary line (IMBL) by the Indian Coast Guard.

Five boats, with 21 fishermen, were taken away by the Sri Lankan navy while fishing between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar on September 17. They were produced before a Mannar court and detained at the Anuradhapuram prison, said T. Ilamvazhuthi, Assistant Director of Fisheries, Rameswaram. They were to have been produced again on October 1 but the Union government sought their immediate repatriation. The fishermen were again produced before the Mannar court on Thursday before being released, he added.

On information of their repatriation, the Coast Guard sent its ship to receive the five boats and their crew from the Sri Lankan navy at the IMBL in Palk Bay on Friday. The boats were escorted by the ship to the Coast Guard Station at Mandapam where the fishermen were questioned by Central and State intelligence and other security agencies. They were later handed over to the Assistant Director of Fisheries, Rameswaram.

The Commandant, Coast Guard Station, Mandapam, D.S. Saini, advised the fishermen not to cross the IMBL in the interest of their own safety. They were also advised against indulging in any illegal activity.

The fishermen were told not to venture into the sea during adverse weather conditions. They should carry with them adequate life-saving equipment like lifejackets and lifebuoys. The Coast Guard Commandant suggested that they operate in pairs or groups for mutual assistance in an emergency and to know their likely whereabouts in case of missing or inadvertent crossing of the IMBL so as to initiate timely action.