Human traffickers exploit the current economic crisis
Human traffickers are believed to be exploiting the current economic crisis in the country to convince unsuspecting people to part with large sums of cash in exchange for safe boat passage to Australian territorial waters, the agency said. Navy yesterday.
The warning came even as 91 other Sri Lankans were arrested on land and sea last week as they planned to embark on an illegal journey to Australia, bringing the total number to 203 over the three last weeks. Among those apprehended were 17 women and 11 children, including a one-month-old baby, Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told the Sunday Observer yesterday.
He said among those arrested were some 16 people described as those responsible for the attempted illegal sea voyages.
“Time and time again, the Navy and other state agencies have warned the public against these human traffickers who promise safe travel to Australia to unsuspecting people in exchange for a high fee. Australia has zero tolerance for illegal migrants and has pledged to turn back boats on the open sea and even if there has been a successful landing on the beach by these people they are returned to Colombo on the first flight available,” said captain De Silva.
He said the Navy has a strong mechanism to fight illegal operations in the country’s territorial waters, including human trafficking.
“We are also working with other state actors and intelligence agencies to this end,” he said.
He said the bulk of those trying to leave the country came from the north and east and the coastal belt stretching from Negombo to Puttalam and beyond.
Those apprehended are handed over to the authorities for follow-up, he said.
In the most recent incident, 15 illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport after being deported by Australian authorities.
The group that left Sri Lanka 19 days ago were apprehended by the Australian Coastguard after their multi-day fishing trawler became stranded in Australian territorial waters near Christmas Island.
They were first detained on Christmas Island, then boarded a plane and returned to Sri Lanka.
They are residents of Negombo and other nearby areas, officials said.