Police suspect an aborted bid to smuggle Lankan refugees

An iron boat was found abandoned near the breakwater of Keechankuppam near here in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The boat is large enough to carry around 50 people.

Around 20 bags containing clothes, including sweatshirts, mufflers, stoles and shawls were found scattered all over the boulders in its vicinity.

There were also strips of paracetamol, Pampers, fresh food packs and water bottles. It also contained 40 newly purchased steel plates with vegetables, four sacks of rice and 37 cans, each with 35 litres of diesel. Going by the stickers on the plates and perishables, the purchases were made in Nagapattinam.

According to police sources, who spoke to The Hindu, it was an indication of an aborted attempt to transport Sri Lankan nationals or refugees to Australia. Inspector of Police, Marine Police, P Velu said the people who took the boat could have set sail from anywhere along the Nagapattinam coast. The boat might have developed a snag and while attempting to move ashore ran aground.

There were also a few wet papers, which looked like photocopies of ration cards or passports. Marine police have deployed 10 personnel on a shift basis for round-the-clock surveillance.

From the make it looked like the boat belonged to the district, but was sold to someone in Karaikal. There was no registration number on it.

In a recent incident, 65 Sri Lankan refugees, who made an illegal bid to migrate to Australia, were rescued by Nagapattinam fisherfolk, after their boat got stranded off Velankanni coast.