The detention of 151 Lankans off the Kollam coast on Sunday night leads to the suspicion that the LTTE is making an attempt to regroup in far-off countries like Australia, The Asian Age reported.
The Kerala coast is emerging as a hot transit spot for Sri Lankan Tamils who seek illegal migration, thanks to the easy availability of fishing boats and the frequent movement of boats along the Kerala coast.
In the last two years, the police have foiled the attempts by nearly 300 Sri Lankans to illegally cross the border to Australia, through the Kerala coast. This includes the 151 detained in Kollam on Sunday night.
Intelligence agencies strongly suspect that the frequent illegal migration is part of the LTTE's attempts to regroup its cadres.
Intelligence sources believe that among the illegal migrants, a majority might not have any LTTE links. However, there might be a couple of LTTE followers among them.
Earlier, there were intelligence inputs of the LTTE cadres trying to regroup from various European countries, said sources.
Meanwhile, the state police do not rule out the possibility of many Sri Lankans crossing the border, unchecked.
Sri Lankan native Sundararaja Sivakumar alias Siva, 50, who was held in connection with the trafficking of 37 Sri Lankans from Kollam coast last year, had confessed that more than 1,500 Sri Lankan natives were trafficked to countries like Australia, France and Canada through the sea off the Kerala and Tamil Nadu coasts in 35 boats, during the last couple of years.
Easy availability of boats, the heavy movement of boats along the Kerala coast and minimum chances of being held are cited by intelligence sources as the reasons why the illegal migrants opt for the Kerala coast.
A majority of those held are from various Sri Lankan refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. There are agents who woo the refugees to migrate illegally, by offering them citizenship in Australia and other European countries.
Agents collect up to Rs. 50,000 from each individual and arrange the boats. The Sri Lankans used to arrive in the state in small groups.The 151- member group held from Kollam had reached the state through the Madurai - Shenkottai route.
Central intelligence sources said that the agents always ensured the presence of women and children in the group so as to avoid the risk of being suspected by security personnel, while coming to the transit point.
They consider Kerala as a safe place, as Sri Lankan Tamils would be considered only as Tamilians while in Kerala, whereas they could be easily identified as Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu, said sources.
In the previous instances of illegal migrations of Sri Lankans, the police had registered case against the agents who facilitated the migrants and the Sri Lankans were made witnesses.
The refugees told the police that they had paid huge amounts to the agents. I left Vavuniya along with my wife and three children on June 2 after paying Rs. 2 lakh to an agent. We had to dispose of all our property to raise the funds. After reaching Chennai by air, we headed towards Kollam via Madurai, Shenkottai, one of the migrants said.
Assistant commissioner of police, Thomson Jose, said that the police was in touch with the Refugee Commissioner at Chennai and steps would be taken to sent the refugees back to the camps.