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Sri Lankan navy accused of trafficking Tamil asylum seekers

The trafficking of Tamil asylum seekers attempting to flee Sri Lanka occurs with the help of the Sri Lankan navy, said a recently returned Tamil asylum seeker.

Vaithilingam Linagaraja, who was smuggled off the island in 2013, told the Sunday Times that people smugglers worked with the Sri Lankan navy to allow asylum seekers to flee Sri Lanka.

Whilst fleeing off the coast of Hambantota, Mr Lingaraja said he and other asylum seekers argued with the traffickers about the danger of getting caught by the navy.

“We had a heated argument with the crew about the danger of sailing while Navy patrols were standing by a couple of kilometers away,” said Mr Lingaraja. “They told us that this ‘business’ is happening with their help. One said, ‘They are helping us with a Navy torch that shows our route clearly’.”

In 2013 four members of the Sri Lankan Navy were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle asylum seekers to Australia, with Tamil often speaking out about the navy being involved in profit-making smuggling rings.

See our earlier post: SL navy sailors arrested over people smuggling (19 Aug 2013)

Also see more from the Sydney Morning Herald here, here and here.