At least 13 Tamils, including 11 men and 2 women between the ages of 21 and 44, were briefly arrested and held by Sri Lankan authorities in the west coastal district of Chilaw under suspicions that they were going to board a boat to Australia, as they fled from the island to seek asylum.
Senaratne Edirinsinghe, Sri Lanka's Chilaw police investigations chief, reported that the 13 individuals had eventually been released as they were arrested at the Far Inn guesthouse and there was little evidence to charge them under immigration law.
The Far Inn manager has told the police that the group stayed for a week and came from different parts of the island, including the Tamil North-East, arrived on different days and shared three different rooms. The individuals had reportedly come from areas such as Batticaloa in the east and Jaffna in the north.
Edirinsinghe has reported that the police are currently investigating a people trafficking racket in which asylum-seekers are tricked into paying exorbitant fees for a passage out of Sri Lanka and then abandoned. The Sri Lankan navy has previously been implicated in such rackets, even though Sri Lankan and Australian authorities have stopped at least five asylum boats since May. Authorities have also reportedly intervened before asylum seekers boarded their boats.
The Australian further reports that another boat sailing to Australia and leaving from the local Udappuwa beach was stopped by authorities before last week’s raid.
Read more from The Australian here.
The latest reports of Tamils attempting to flee the island come as concerns over human rights violations and militarisation of the North-East continue.