No clue yet on those behind the ring; indications are that Tamil Tigers with local contacts could be involved
The Kollam police claimed to have busted a human trafficking racket on Sunday night with the arrest of two groups of Sri Lankan Tamils, one from a fishing boat off the coast and the other from Mukkad area of Kavanad in the city. Those taken into custody comprise 107 men, 19 women and 25 children.
They told the police that Australia was their destination and they had paid Rs. 50,000 each for being smuggled into that country. But the police were clueless on the identity of the people behind the racket.
“At the same time there are indications that Tamil Tigers with local contacts could be involved.”
Kollam Police Commissioner Debesh Kumar Behera told The Hindu that it would be verified whether they had sneaked out of refugee camps in Tamil Nadu or arrived here directly from Sri Lanka.
It was also being examined whether those taken into custody were in possession of travel documents.
Preliminary investigations revealed that some of those taken into custody had arrived directly from Sri Lanka but the majority had sneaked out of refugee camps in the hope of reaching Australia.
The police arrested boat owner Alex and middleman Dasan, both of Kollam.
The boat was a crude vessel marked to be condemned. It displayed two names, “Saint Antony” and “Kottarathil.” From the boat 136 were taken into custody and the rest from Kavanad.
The arrested alleged that they were victims of human rights violations both in Sri Lanka and even at the refugee camps in India and that the torture had compelled them to take the risk of embarking on a dangerous voyage in a crude boat in the hope of reaching Australia. They were told that it would take 18 days.
The women and children were found to have been accommodated inside the store of the boat.
But the police did not find sufficient food or water.
Mr. Behera said the version of the Tamils seemed convincing as many of their relatives had reached Australia through the same mode.
It was a group of youths relaxing on the banks of the Ashtamudi Lake at Mukkad which saw some Tamils desperately rushing to a boat jetty and alerted the police.
The police soon arrived and on interrogating the group, learnt that a boatload of Sri Lankan Tamils being trafficked to Australia was not far from the Kollam coast.
The boat was scheduled to arrive at Mukkad and pick up this group.
When the operators on the boat learnt that the police were on to them, they skipped the Mukkad schedule and began sailing away. However, a posse from the Neendakara Coastal Police station, gave chase in the interceptor boat Darshana, and stopped the vessel from escaping.
When the police entered the boat there was no crew. It was suspected that they could have jumped into the sea and escaped. The team from the Coastal Police Station steered the fishing boat to the Shakthikulangara Harbour.
Keywords: human trafficking racket