Influx of refugees worrisome: Navy Chief

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Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: The Navy was more concerned about the record influx of refugees this year from Sri Lanka than the threat to maritime assets by the LTTE, Chief of Naval Staff Sureesh Mehta said here.

"As the situation gets bad in the northern part of Sri Lanka, more refugees are coming into Tamil Nadu. We are more worried about nefarious elements crossing over. Our main role would be to have extra patrols in the Palk Bay region along with the Coast Guard," he said.

Patrolling should ensure that no unwanted elements entered India and no contraband left its shores. "There is no need for joint patrols. Coordinated patrols on either side of the international maritime boundary would be good enough."

On the potential threat from a "rebel navy," Admiral Mehta said Navy units operating in the region had been told to take action in case of hostile intent. "But there is no reason to fear if we are operating on our side, least of all [from] these little fellows."

According to official figures, the number of refugees arriving from Sri Lanka this year was more than the cumulative figures of the previous 10 years. Over 16,000 arrived this year, as against just two in the previous three years when peace talks were on. The maximum inflow took place in August (over 5,600) followed by September (about 4,000). In comparison, the highest figure for a single year in the past decade was in 1996 when 2,180 refugees arrived in Tamil Nadu.



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