Human traffickers exploiting current economic crisis | Page 2 | Sunday Observer
Another 91 held in aborted illegal sea voyage:

Human traffickers exploiting current economic crisis

12 June, 2022

Human traffickers are believed to be exploiting the current economic crisis in the country to convince unsuspecting persons to part with large sums of money in return for a safe boat passage to Australian territorial waters, the Navy said yesterday.

The warning came even as another 91 Sri Lankans were nabbed on land and sea last week while planning to embark on an illegal voyage to Australia bringing the total number to 203 over the past three weeks. Among those apprehended were 17 women and 11 children including a month-old infant, Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

He said among those rounded up were some 16 people described as the handlers of the attempted illegal sea voyages.

“Time and again, the Navy along with other State agencies had warned the public against these human traffickers who promise a safe journey to Australia to unsuspecting persons in return for a large fee. Australia has zero tolerance for illegal migrants and has vowed to turn back boats in mid sea and even if there has been a successful beach landing by such people they are sent back to Colombo on the first available flight,” Capt. De Silva said.

He said the Navy has a strong mechanism to combat illegal operations in the country’s territorial waters and this includes human trafficking.

“We also work with other State actors and intelligence agencies towards this end,” he said.

He said that the bulk of those attempting to leave the country are from the North and the East and from the coastal belt stretching from Negombo to Puttalam and beyond.

The apprehended people are handed over to the authorities for follow-up action, he said.

In the most recent incident, 15 illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport after they were deported by the Australian authorities.

The group that had left Sri Lanka 19 days ago was apprehended by the Australian Coast Guard after their multi-day fishing trawler went on the limp in Australian territorial waters close to Christmas Island.

They were initially detained on Christmas Island and later loaded on to a plane and sent back to Sri Lanka.

They are residents of Negombo and other neighbouring areas, officials said.