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 the Australian High Commission officials made it clear that Australia would not entertain asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country illegally.
An investigation revealed that they were hoodwinked by a Tiruchi-based agent, Ramanan. He, along with 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 one lakh – from the refugees promising them suitable jobs in Australia. Ramanan left his eight-year-old daughter Dwaraka with the refugees and fled the scene after coming to know of police intervention. 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.
When contacted, Collector Ashish Kumar said a report had been sent to the government on the issue and a reply was expected in a day or two on initiating action against the refugees. Following complaints by victims, Inspector of Police, Ettayapuram, S. Sankardev said a case was registered against Ramanan under Sections 417 and 420 of Indian Penal Code. The refugees have been accommodated in the temple for now. Further investigation is under way.