The Kerala Police 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.
According to the Indian media reports, there are indications that Tamil Tigers with local contacts could be involved.
They had told the Indian police that Australia was their destination and they had paid Rs. 50,000 each for being smuggled into that country. But the Indian police were clueless on the identity of the people behind the racket.
Kerala Police Commissioner Debesh Kumar Behera had 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 Indian police arrested the boat owner.
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 women and children were found to have been accommodated inside the store of the boat.
But the Indian police did not find sufficient food or water.
Kerala Police Commissioner 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 Indian 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 Kerala 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.
The Sri Lankan Police also arrested around 113 people on the shores of Negombo and Galle face recently who were found attempting to flee the country to Australia.
The Police had taken six agents who were suspected to have organized the ‘migration’ into custody. The people who were arrested were reported to have been residents of Negombo and Chilaw and paid a sum of 200,000 each for the voyage.
The Police are conducting further investigations into the incident.