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Friday, April 20, 2012 - 4.17 GMT
Relatives seek new of Tamils who fled conflict in SL


Relatives and friends of Sri Lankan Tamils who risked their lives through human smuggling in search of a better future abroad after the end of the conflict in May 2009 are desperately seeking information as to their fate.

Thousands of Tamils migrated from the country to escape the violence of the 30-year conflict, which ended with Sri Lankan troops routing the separatist Tamil Tigers. Many have fallen prey to dangerous human smuggling networks, their families say, BBC reported.

The smugglers reportedly charge between $25,000 and $50,000 to take a person from Sri Lanka to places like Australia or Canada.

Those wanting to get out are first taken to India or Thailand and then to Australia by boat.

Many Sri Lankan Tamils have gone missing these voyage, while others have been caught by the authorities and are languishing in prisons.

Kokila, a mother of four and a resident of northern Jaffna, has lost all contact with her husband, Jayaveerasingam Sivaguru, who set sail on a boat to Australia two years ago.

"He boarded a boat from Pondicherry, 200km [124 miles] south of the Indian city of Madras [Chennai] in October 2009," she says.

"After that I don't know what happened to him.

"Many boats have sunk in the sea. I am really worried. In 2010, I lodged a complaint with the Red Cross."

Another Jaffna resident, Tamizhini, is looking for information about her younger brother, Rassaiya Anandadeepan. She says he left for India by plane and boarded a boat from the western port city of Mangalore.

"We have had no contact with my brother after he left in the boat in 2009," she said.

The authorities recently foiled at least two attempts to smuggle people to Australia and the Seychelles.

Police say they are keen to help the families of those who are missing.
"We can get assistance from Interpol and our foreign ministry to find missing people," says Sri Lankan police spokesman, Ajith Rohana.

During late 2009 and early 2010, two separate shiploads of about 600 Sri Lankan Tamils in all even reached Canada. Their claims for political asylum are now being processed.

In February 2012 it emerged that 200 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees were living in desperate conditions in the west African state of Togo.

Usually, however, Sri Lankan Tamils try to head for Australia.

"I boarded the boat from Mangalore in October 2009," one man in an Australian detention centre who did not want to be named told the BBC writer.

Indonesia and Australia are now jointly working to tackle people smuggling.
Meanwhile the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says that while it is concerned over the increased number of people smuggling cases, it is very difficult to find a person who has gone missing.

"The seas between Australia and Indonesia are extremely rough. Many boats have sunk there without trace," IOM Asia-Pacific spokesman Christopher Lowenstein-Lom said.

"Many travel by assuming fake names and documents.

"Paying money to human smugglers will not guarantee an assured journey. Those who are considering paying the human smugglers must think hard."

A large number of Tamils fled the country to avoid child conscription by LTTE.

In 2010, UNHCR said, given the cessation of hostilities, Sri Lankans originating from the north of the country are no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm.

"One principle of asylum law is that you seek protection at the first available opportunity. You donít asylum shop," said Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in regard to the human smuggling ship MV Ocean Lady arrived off the West Coast carrying 76 Sri Lankan asylum seekers.





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Last modified: April 20, 2012.

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