June 03, Chennai: A group of Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu state of India, who attempted to migrate to Australia via sea, has been intercepted by the Chennai law enforcement authorities.
The 28 Sri Lankan refugees from four camps in Tamil Nadu - Gummidipoondi, Puzhal, Vellore, and Bhavani Sagar (Erode) - were intercepted in a joint-operation involving the Q-Branch, Coastal Security Group (CSG), and Tiruvallur police, in the small hours of Thursday near Chennai, according to a report in the Deccan Chronicle.
Two agents, both Sri Lankan nationals, had assured the refugees that they were scheduled to leave from Pulicat Lake as tourists and were to board a shipping vessel heading to Australia, to be off-loaded in Christmas Island, which is 3,710 km away from the Tamil Nadu coast.
The refugees who had paid for the trip were intercepted while being transported by road at two locations, Tirupalaivanam and Sholavaram police limits, in neighboring Tiruvallur district, between 2 am and 5 am, the report said.
"It is highly improbable to make it to Australia by a boat and it is nothing but a cheating racket. We have been trying to sensitize refugees on the dangerous trip that they should not be undertaking. They are so engrossed in the idea of going to Sri Lanka and financing Rs 1 or Rs 2 lakh as demanded by the agents through their kin resettled elsewhere. It is also suspected that the agents themselves tip off the police to scuttle the journey and thus maximize their profits, given the challenges in the trip," S.C. Chandrahasan, founder, Organization for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, told DC.
The Australian government has shut the door for asylum seekers after introducing a tough policy in August 2012 to deter asylum-seekers by sending them to offshore detention centers in Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Under the new policy illegal migrants arriving by the sea route will be turned back without allowing to them to reach the main land.