Sept 01, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government will take measures to revise the Immigration and Emigration Amendment Act of 2006 in a bid to prevent thousands of illegal migrants being smuggled out of the country.
Controller of Immigration and Emigration Chulananda Perera says the Act will be amended to impose tougher penalties to the human smugglers who make a lucrative business exploiting the destitute migrants and endangering their lives.
According to the official, the laws will be amended to impose jail terms up to 20 years instead of the current 2 years and to forfeit their assets. The amendment will also make human smuggling and human trafficking non-bailable offences.
"We have proposed maximum possible punishment to those who have made human smuggling a business while risking the lives of thousands of unsuspecting victims,” the Immigration and Emigration head told the state-run Daily News.
However, the government would be lenient to the illegal migrants who are victims of the trade.
"We have to take a sympathetic view on the victims and will not increase the existing prison term of three months where they are concerned," the official has added.
The amendments to the Immigration and Emigration Act have been drafted based on a report submitted by a committee comprising officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Attorney General's Department.
The Legal Draftsman's Department has already approved the proposed amendments and they have referred to the Immigration and Emigration Department for its observations.
The official said the government will obtain necessary cooperation from countries such as Australia, Canada, the US and the European Union which are the most likely destinations of the asylum seekers.
Most of the illegal migrants are headed to Australia and in the last three months alone Sri Lanka Navy has arrested or rescued to 1,076 attempting to flee the country to Australia.
Indonesian police have detained 50 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers who were rescued by Indonesian authorities after they were found stranded and starving in a faulty boat drifting off Sumatra, an AFP report said today.
Some 1,000 Sri Lankans are reportedly among nearly 6,000 asylum seekers held in detention camps in Australia.