Number of illegal migrating attempts soared last year – Navy Spokesman | Daily News


Number of illegal migrating attempts soared last year – Navy Spokesman

The number of people migrating illegally has increased in the last year (2019). The Navy and affiliated agencies have worked hard to prevent illegal migrant rackets, Navy Spokesman Lt. Com. Isuru Sooriyabandara said.

He was addressing a media briefing at the Media Centre for National Security in Colombo yesterday.

The Navy had also seized 3.3 tonnes of cannabis, 763 kg of heroin and 58 tonnes of beedi leaves last year, he said.

He said the Navy in their latest raid apprehended four Sri Lankans, while they were attempting to migrate via sea routes from Padikei in Trincomalee on December 30, 2019.

The trawler that they planned to use was seized at the Okanda Kunukala beach in Panama. It was revealed that about 45 other persons had been in the attempt and the Navy continues search for other suspects. It is believed that these suspects have abandoned the attempt and returned because of the patrols conducted by the Navy. The Navy along with the Police carry out further investigation in this regard, he said.

The Navy works in close cooperation with the UNODC and the Australian Government in preventing illegal migration to Australia. A joint working group has been set up between the Navy and Australia to prevent illegal migrations, he said.

Sooriyabandara said that 164 persons had been arrested last year by the Navy, while they were attempting to migrate. “Earlier smugglers were transporting people to Australia and New Zealand, but now we have observed that these smugglers are also transporting people on boats to the French Reunion Island as well. They are hoodwinking the people and charging them huge sums to transport them on boats to these destinations. He said that over the past 10 years, the navy had foiled many illegal migration attempts and taken into custody 4,765 persons and seized 103 boats.”

“The Navy Spokesman said that criminal elements and drug racketeers are among these people smugglers. Innocent people trying to migrate illegally in search of better financial prospects could get into grave trouble when arrested. They could be suspected of having connections with these criminals and could get caught up in deep trouble. You would not know who is in these boats with you. They could be criminals. Travelling on these small boats for such long distances is very dangerous, especially when small children are taken on such boats. Children and women have specific nutritional and other requirements that may not be taken into account by the smugglers. In the recent arrest, we found that the smugglers had charged each Rs. 500,000 to transport them to Reunion Island,” he said.

He said that the Navy now has more advanced technology and surveillance. “So, smugglers cannot get past the Navy without being detected. We have obtained the assistance of the Air Force in surveillance operations to detect vessels carrying illegal migrants,” he said.

The Commander of Australia’s Operations Sovereign Borders, Major General Craig Furini, had issued a statement that the Australian and Sri Lankan Governments share a strong relationship and continue to work together to combat people smuggling and prevent people from risking their lives at sea.

“You will risk your life by attempting to migrate illegally since you have zero chance of success. Australia’s tough border protection policies mean that no one who travels illegally by boat will ever be allowed to live or work in Australia,” Maj. Gen. Furini, said.

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