The Sri Lankans were promised jobs in Australia by a Tiruchi-based agent

Fifty-five Sri Lankan Tamil refugees were detained by the police on Tuesday night while attempting to travel to Australia illegally.

After taking shelter at Vekkaliamman Temple at Sindhalakarai in Tuticorin district, the refugees were about to get into boats to Kerala without passports.

Tuticorin ‘Q’ Branch police detected them following a tip-off from the temple administrators.

The refugees, belonging to 25 families, were from Tiruchi, Rameswaram, Chennai and Chidambaram. They were staying in the temple for the past two days.

The incident came just days after Australian High Commission officials made it clear that the country would not entertain asylum-seekers attempting to enter illegally.

An investigation revealed that they were hoodwinked by a Tiruchi-based agent, Ramanan. He, along with his driver Sukesh has gone underground and a hunt has been launched.

It is alleged that he took money – ranging from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 1 lakh – from the refugees promising them jobs in Australia. Ramanan left his eight-year-old daughter Dwaraka with the refugees and fled.

It was found that the vehicle used by him carried a false registration number. The refugees were to be taken to more temples along the east coast before reaching Kerala.

A report had been sent to the government.

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