Indian fishermen rescue refugees, get jailed

[TamilNet, Saturday, 17 July 2004, 13:09 GMT]
Mannar judge Saturday remanded until 30 July two Indian fishermen who had rescued a group of refugees stranded at midsea in an overloaded boat. The judge released the thirty four refugees after reprimanding them for giving contradictory statements to hide the identities of the 'refugee smugglers' who had brought them in the overloded boat from the South Indian coast for a fee.

The group of refugees, including women and children, had set out on Thursday to Mannar in the refugee smugglers' boat from Mandapam in the Ramanathapuram District on the southern coast of Tamil Nadu.

The boat was adrift at midsea after its Out Board Motor (OBM) had failed. The refugees started screaming when the overloaded boat began to flounder. Two Indian fishermen who were in the area had rescued the refugees and brought the to the seas off Thalaimannar where they tried to handover the group to the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN). The two refugee smugglers had repaired the OBM and returned to Mandapam.

The SLN, however, arrested the Indian fishermen despite the refugees telling the sailors that the two men had rescued them at mid sea.

SLN later handed over the refugees and the Indian fishermen to Police in Thalaimannar.

Police told court that the fishermen had to be arrested as they had entered the Thalaimannar maritime zone illegally. The remanded Indian fishermen are Mr.Narayanan kanakamani, 38, of Meenavar Colony, Mandapam and Mr. Soosaiah Miller, 28, of Vivekananthar street, Ramanathapuram town.

Mannar magistrate (acting) Mr.M. B Farook observed that India and Sri Lanka should formulate a clear policy on Sri Lankan refugees in India to prevent refugee smuggling and the problems that are caused by it.

 

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