An abandoned mechanized boat, believed to have been used by the people smugglers to illegally ferry Sri Lankan refugees to Australia, was reportedly seized by the ‘Q’ Branch CID police in Tamil Nadu off the Muttom Coast in Kanyakumari District on Saturday.
The boat was seized after the police had rounded up a few Sri Lankan refugees, who had paid for the passage and had returned recently after encountering coastal patrol boats blocking their route, police sources said. The boat, said to be around 75 feet in length, had been stranded at Old Harbour in Muttom. It had been registered in Kerala but had been painted over by the smugglers with a fake registration number.
The police had learned that, nine refugees from the Vellore Melmonavoor Refugee Camp had been missing since June 19. The nine persons returned on June 23, and were questioned by Q Branch sleuths. During the course of their interrogation, it was learned that, one of the four men arrested by the department recently in Pollachi, along with a few other “agents,” had received money from the nine refugees and had promised to ferry them to Australia.
The people smugglers had planned to ferry the nine refugees from Kanyakumari, but were forced to turn back after encountering coastal security, just a few nautical miles off the Kanyakumari Coast.