An alleged bid by a group of 55 Sri Lankan refugees, including 15 children, to clandestinely leave India in boats to Australia from Tuticorin was foiled on Wednesday, The Times of India reported.
The refugees from various camps across Tamil Nadu were detained by the 'Q' branch police when they were waiting at a temple in Chinthalakkarai near Ettayapuram, possibly awaiting the intimation from their agents for the right time to board the boats from Tuticorin coast. Police said that they will be sent to their respective refugee camps after interrogation is over. Meanwhile, a hunt has been launched for two agents who received money from the refugees promising to send them to Australia.
"It is not clear whether the agents had collected money with an intention of sending them to Australia or dupe the gullible refugees with the promise of sending them abroad, but ditch them after receiving the cash," said a police officer.
The agents identified as Ramanan and Suresh, who also happen to be Sri Lankan Tamils, have collected anything between Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh depending on the affordability of the families.
The refugees were staying in the temple in the guise of devotees for the past two days. "They were from the camps at Kottapattu and Vazhavandhankottai in Trichy district, Chidambaram, Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli. All of them assembled in Trichy and had come to Tuticorin," police said.
Police said that the villagers of Chinthalakarai who suspected the identity of the refugees belonging to 20 families staying in the temple in the guise of devotees informed the revenue officials. Ettayapuram tahsildar Ambrose Mary conducted inquiries with the refugees and informed the 'Q' branch police.
Ramanan had asked the refugees to be at the temple assuring that he would contact them once the situation was conducive for the boat ride from Tuticorin coast. Police suspect that since Ramanan did not turn up for two days, he could have duped the refugees and fled with the money.
"None of these refugees had any relatives or friends in Australia. But they had heard that refugees enjoyed a better livelihood status there and had fallen in the trap of the agents," said a police official.