The Thiruvananthapuram police have detained a 23-member group on the suspicion that an international human trafficking racket had brought them to Kovalam to abet their illegal migration via sea to Australia on the false assurance that there was an unmet demand in that country for cheap labour.
Officials said members of the group, comprising of seven men, eight women and six children, were from different parts of the country, chiefly New Delhi and Tamil Nadu. They claimed to be families on tour. However, the police said that, on the face of it, the couples seemed to know little about their travel companions. None of them have admitted so far that they were attempting to travel to Australia.
The police had detained the group on the basis of an advisory routed to it through the Central Intelligence Bureau. The agency had earlier warned law enforcements in the coastal States that every effort should be taken to prevent Indian citizens from undertaking long and dangerous sea voyages to Australia putting their trust and money on the false promises put forth by international mafia networks profiting from trafficking in human beings. Officials said that the IB had earlier identified Mangalore, Kochi and the Maldives as the main ports in Indian Ocean from which Indian citizens made dangerous sea voyages on ill equipped boats to Christmas Island between Indonesia and mainland Australia. The IB had warned earlier that Vizhinjam could potentially emerge as the new port of origin for illegal emigrants from India to Australia, they said.
The police said they were verifying the background of the detainees and trying to ascertain whether or not their identities were genuine. They were also in touch with their counterparts in Tamil Nadu.