KOCHI: A large number of Sri Lankan Tamils have gone to Australia and South East Asian nations from Kerala in fishing trawlers, operating off Kerala coast, Indian police said.
The state police have stumbled upon this fact after they took into custody 17 Lankan Tamils, who included two women and two children, from a lodge in the city on Tuesday.
"Interrogation of those in custody has revealed that a large number of persons have already been to Australia and other South East Asian countries from Kerala. The rackets have entered into a tieup with local agents to provide them logistics support," a police official said. He said that a few relatives of those in custody were already in Australia.
A police team led by Central Circle Inspector D S Suneesh Babu seized a largesized fishing boat named 'Sea Queen' from Murikumpadam on Wednesday. The boat was arranged to ship the Lankans to Australia.
Police said the boat was reportedly bought by a human trafficking agent at a cost of `25 lakh and it had the capacity to carry 50 people and store 8,000 litres of diesel. Police said that the boat, bearing the Lankans would touch the Australian shores in 15 to 20 days.
Police have taken into custody the boat owner identified as John Kennedy of Kollachil.
"Of the 17 members, four men have been remanded in judicial custody and the rest made witnesses," said the police official. Those remanded were identified as Shivam Pillai, 33, of Arnadhapuram; Nagaranjam, 32, of 21/5 Udayarth Lane, Jaffna; Muruganandam,31, of Epathanavattram, Mannarmavattom, Tesalai; and Kanaka Lingam, 47, of Alardi, Vettikalai. Nagaranjam and Muruganandam were staying at Sri Lankan refugee camps in Tiruchirapalli and Madurai respectively.
Police have launched a manhunt to nab the agent who has been identified as Senthiram. A team of intelligence officials has already questioned the persons in custody.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K Jayakumar said the state police were already aware of the modus operandi of certain rackets which send Tamils to other countries from Kerala coast. "We have alerted the Centre about the development," he said.
DGP Jacob Punnoose said the state police have been vigilant on tracking the activities of human trafficking agents in the state.