The five Sri Lankan fishermen who had been taken into custody by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) after their vessel strayed into Maldivian territorial waters are expected to be repatriated next week
An official from Sri Lanka's Fisheries Ministry told Haveeru that the Maldivian government has agreed to repatriate the Sri Lankan fishermen following a request made by the Sri Lankan government.
"We had spoken to the Maldivian government through our embassy in Male and they have agreed to repatriate these fishermen. We are currently monitoring the situation and have been in contact with the fishermen. The Maldivian government has been providing them with all their basic needs and we believe the repatriation will take place smoothly," he said.
The Sri Lankan fishermen were reported to have abandoned their vessel as it faced technical difficulties. They had been eventually rescued by a merchant shipping vessel and were then handed over to the MNDF.
The vessel had left the Sri Lanka's southern fisheries port, Kudawela and had been missing since December 23.
"We sent out messages to our neighbouring countries about the missing fishermen. We then received a response from the Sri Lankan High Commission in Maldives confirming that the fishermen were in safe hands and in good health," an official from the Fisheries Ministry said.
MNDF had questioned the five Sri Lankans to identify if they genuinely were in distress or if they were poaching in Maldivian territorial waters. The Maldivian Coast Guard has launched an operation to locate and retrieve the 15-foot Sri Lankan fishing trawler. (Haveeru)