Forty fishermen released on December 10 by Sri Lanka arrived at Mandapam on Thursday. They were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on December 3.

The fishermen — 21 from Karaikal in Puducherry and 19 from Nagapattinam — set out in five mechanised boats on November 28 and were fishing close to the east of Sri Lankan coast, when they were arrested by the Navy in the early hours.

After seven days of detention, they were released on December 10.

The Sri Lankan Navy handed them over to the Indian Navy with their five boats at the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL) on Wednesday night.

Indian Coast Guard vessel ‘Gangadevi’ received them and escorted them back to the Indian coast and handed the fishermen over to the Coast Guard personnel at Mandapam.

They landed at the fishing jetty around 5 p.m.

“After completing the formalities, we gave food and some refreshments to the fishermen, who were found hungry and tired. All the 40 fishermen were later allowed to set sail to their respective places,” H.H. More, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Station, Mandapam told The Hindu.

Some family members, including three women from Nagapattinam and Karaikal turned up to receive the fishermen at the fishing jetty.

A woman with a baby in her arms broke down on seeing her husband returning home safely.

Narrating the incidents the fishermen said that the Sri Lankan Navy handed them over to Trincomalee police and a case was registered against them.

Produced before a judge they were later lodged in a prison.

The Navy personnel did not subject them to ill-treatment, but took away all their catch.

The Navy had also taken away their GPS, fishing nets and other materials, but returned them after their release, they said.

“On the first two days, we were not given proper food. However, after some higher officials intervened, the prison authorities cooked separately and served us,” S. Chelladurai, a fisherman from Akaraipettai in Nagapattinam said.

He said eight fishermen were in his boat and they had three tonnes of fish after three days of fishing. The officials had taken away the entire catch, worth about Rs. 3 lakh, he alleged.

R. Sooryamoorthy from Karaikal, however, had a horror story to share. “The Navy treated us badly and beat us up. They retained expensive mobiles, including one costing Rs. 12.000, while returning back the other ordinary sets,” he alleged.

He said officials took away about 1.5 tonnes of fish, worth about Rs. 40,000. They, however, returned the nets without damaging them, he said.

Indian Deputy High Commission officials visited the fishermen in the prison and after their release, arranged for their food and shelter, he said.