Sri Lankan refugees intercepted before reaching Australia

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, India.
Image: OpenStreetMap.

Indian authorities intercepted a truck with 33 Sri Lankan refugees in Tiruvallur, a small town in Chennai, India. The refugees, missing from four different government-run camps, planned to board a boat to Australia to seek refuge.

The passengers included six women and six children. The two agents travelling with these people assured them they would be leaving from Pulicat Lake in Chennai, but were intercepted while being transported by truck between Tirupalaivanam and Sholavaram police limits in a neighbouring district.

The refugees were planning to travel to Christmas Island, 3,710 km away from the Tamil Nadu coast, and then board a boat to Australia.

According to police, four or five similar attempts have been made within the past 3 years to take the journey to Australia by boat, with an estimated 100,000 Sri Lankans seeking refuge in the past 30 years. These people have travelled to southern India, mainly to Tamil Nadu, due to the conflict between the Sri Lankan army and separatist rebels, ending in 2009.

There are 109 camps, holding 60,000 refugees in Tamil Nadu. Here, they receive food, an allowance and education.

Sylendra Babu, coastal security group head told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that, ‘”They are just being duped by agents, who have been arrested and will be booked under both trafficking laws and the national security act”.

According to officials, for a one-way ticket to Australia, smugglers charge 100,000 Rupees (A$2033) and most journeys are unsuccessful in reaching their destination.


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