In a bid to curtail illegal migration by Sri Lankans, the government will introduce tough laws where if found guilty human traffickers and organisers of boat trips will forfeit their assets and will serve a jail term of up to 20 years instead of the present two.
Immigration and Emigration Chief Chulanada Perera said his department would strengthen the Immigration and Emigrations Amendment Act of 2006 in an effort to end human trafficking in Sri Lanka.
He said human trafficking would be made a non-bailable offence.
Hapless victims unable to resist the rosy picture shown to them by human traffickers easily fall victim and take the extremely risky boat ride to reach greener pastures.
Amendments have been drafted based on a report submitted by a committee comprising officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Attorney General’s Department.
“We have to take a sympathetic view on the victims and will not to increase the existing prison term of three months where they are concerned. But we have proposed maximum possible punishment to those who have made human smuggling a business while risking the lives of thousands of unsuspecting victims,” Mr. Perera said.
He said it was necessary to obtain the cooperation of countries such as Australia, Canada, the US and those in the European Union because these were the most likely destinations of a majority of illegal emigrants.
“Our efforts to put an end to human smuggling will not be a success just by introducing stringent regulations if countries of destinations do not cooperate with us. They too must reject outright all illegal immigrants to their countries and laws must be introduced to discourage them,” Mr. Perera said.
Some 1,000 Sri Lankans are among nearly 6,000 asylum seekers held in detention camps in Australia, which is an attractive destination for illegal emigrants from Sri Lanka.
The latest incident was where the Sri Lankan Navy intercepted two multi-day trawlers with 147 probable asylum seekers including Tamils and Sinhalese on board. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)