K.T. Sangameswaran

CHENNAI: With 16 more persons coming to India on Friday morning, the number of Sri Lankan refugees at the Mandapam camp has touched 235, official sources told The Hindu .

Mobilisation of financial resources and availability of boats for the clandestine journey to the Tamil Nadu coast at night seem to be the main factors for those crossing over, following tension on the island.

Though the journey time is just about an hour, preparations start much ahead of the actual departure of the fast mechanised boats, the sources said, quoting some of the refugees who have landed at Rameswaram. The preparations are so hectic that a refugee said he got into the boat at 5 p.m. and dozed off. He landed near Rameswaram early in the morning.

Usually, the arduous ride begins late in the evening or night to escape the eyes of authorities who keep a watch on clandestine movement at sea and on the shore. Though the distance is short, the boat drivers have to proceed cautiously. At times they stay put in the waters for quite some time to evade surveillance.

Refugees say they have to shell out Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 6,000 per family for the ride. Those who arrived on Friday morning - six men, five women and five children belonging to six families - said they paid Rs. 18,000 and Rs. 22,000 (Sri Lankan currency) for two boat rides.

Till now, the refugees have been from Olaithoothuvai, Pesalai, Thalaimannar, Groosepaadu, Koilthoppu and Vidathaltheevu.

The sources say from January 12 till date, 235 persons, belonging to 77 families, arrived at the Mandapam camp. Of these, 81were men, 70 women, and 84 children. The police are questioning the refugees who arrive and maintaining a constant watch along the coast.

C. Jaishankar reports from Ramanathapuram

In spite of the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam agreeing to resume talks, the influx of refugees has not stopped

Sources said the 16 persons who arrived at Arichalmunai in Dhanushkodi near here on Friday were from Trincomalee and Jaffna areas. The Q Branch police, the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies conducted enquiries.

Information received by the agencies from Sri Lanka revealed that more than 5,000 refugees, mostly belonging to Mannar district and Trincomalee area, were waiting for boats to take them to the Tamil Nadu coast.