Illegal immigrants, Sri Lankan navy says while Indian mission says they are fishermen

As many as 86 people from India, traveling on 11 boats, were captured in Sri Lankan waters on Tuesday as they tried to enter the island nation, possibly fleeing the raging pandemic, a said the Sri Lankan Navy.

“They were intercepted at sea and detained there by the navy. We immediately informed the Indian High Commission asking them to arrange for the Indian Coast Guard or Indian Navy to take them back, ”said Navy spokesman Captain Indika De Silva. The Hindu.

When contacted, an Indian High Commission official said there were “a few boats with Indian fishermen near IMBL that were stopped by the Sri Lankan Navy when they inadvertently drifted to Sri Lanka.”

While the Sri Lankan Navy said it was preventing “illegal immigrants” from entering Sri Lankan waters, the Indian mission called them “fishermen.” “After being ordered to return, they returned to India. We continue to believe that issues related to fishermen in both countries must be dealt with in a humanitarian manner, ”said the official.

Details of the origin of the 86 fishermen were not disclosed. Tamil Nadu observes the annual 61-day fishing ban to allow breeding in the Palk Strait. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu’s mechanized boats, accused of fishing in Sri Lankan waters, are generally offshore.

The Sri Lankan navy said it had increased its patrols along the north and northwest coasts of the island to prevent “illegal migration”. The development comes days after two Indian women and children were arrested in Sri Lanka for entering the island illegally by boat, Captain De Silva said. “One of them was a Sri Lankan refugee living in India, and another was a Sri Lankan woman undergoing treatment there.” Similar cases of refugees attempting to return to Sri Lanka by boat were also reported during the first wave of COVID-19 in India last year.

In the past two weeks, the Sri Lankan navy has apprehended four Indian dhows with 21 people carrying “dried turmeric, cardamom and other consumer goods,” according to a press release. “Indian nationals and dhows detained in these operations have been repatriated to Indian waters, taking into account the peak in COVID-19 transmission,” according to the press release.