Feb 14, Colombo: Seventy out of 72 Sri Lankans who illegally sailed to French Réunion Island on a fishing trawler from Chilaw, are to be returned to Sri Lanka this morning on a special French plane under the custody of French Authorities, the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said.
The skipper of the boat and the crew are among the group who will be returned to the country, according to Operations Director of the Fisheries Department Kalyani Hewapathirana.
The Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka has officially informed the Department of Fisheries about the return of the illegal migrants.
French authorities have informed that two of the people who sailed in the boat will be detained in the Réunion Island, BBC Sinhala Service said.
The police are to take the group into custody immediately after they arrive in Sri Lanka for questioning.
Among the 70 people are 05 children and 08 women. They are residents from Batticaloa, Kandy, Jaffna, Puttalam, and other rural areas.
The multi-day fishing trawler "Ve Prashansa", which has left the Negombo fisheries harbor, has picked up 70 people from sea off the coast of Chilaw on January 9th and sailed to the Réunion Island, a French colony in the Indian Ocean.
The authorities at the Réunion Island have informed Sri Lanka that the group has entered the island illegally. The boat had entered the island after sailing for 25 days.
The owner of the multi-day trawler, Sudarshan Perera has lodged a complaint with the Negombo police and the Criminal Investigation Department that the captain and the crew are behind the human trafficking.
Investigation have revealed that the skipper of the boat had charged between Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 1 million each to smuggle the group to the island.
The owner said he has not taken any interest in fishing activities for nearly three months, since his daughter is seriously ill, and has requested the government to bring his boat back to Sri Lanka.
The Fisheries Department says that several fishing boats have been detained in the country and they have commenced discussions at the diplomatic level to recover them.
Multi-day fishing trawler owners recently met with the State Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Dilip Wedaarachchi on Wednesday and requested the government to immediately intervene to prevent use of fishing boats for human smuggling.