Yet ANOTHER intercepted asylum seeker boat brings the total to 350 people who have fled Sri Lanka for Australia in the past three weeks
- Another 64 asylum seekers were intercepted in Sri Lankan waters on Wednesday
- It brings the total number of people attempting to flee to Australia to 350
- The Sri Lankan Navy halted the vessel that held 50 men, 11 women and three kids
- Passengers were promised ‘safe passage to an Australian beach’
- The fishing boat is the fourth to be turned back off Sri Lanka’s coast
- The navy urged Sri Lankan citizens not to fall into ‘the trap of’ people smugglers
- Sri Lanka is in its worst economic crisis since independence from British rule
A group of asylum seekers huddled on a fishing boat have been stopped by the Sri Lankan Navy moments before they could start their journey to Australia, bringing the tally of people trying to make it Down Under since the election to 350.
The fishing trawler was intercepted just off Sri Lanka’s northeast coast, near the port city of Trincomalee, on Wednesday.
It marks the fourth time Sri Lankan authorities have stopped an asylum seeker boat in as many weeks.
The group, which had hoped to make the treacherous Indian Ocean journey on Wednesday morning, was promised ‘safe passage to an Australian beach’ by the people smugglers.
‘A special operation mounted by Sri Lanka navy in the eastern seas this morning [Wednesday] led to the apprehension of 64 persons who were suspected to be attempting to illegally migrate from the country via sea routes,’ the Sri Lankan Navy said in a statement.
Passengers on the boat were 50 men – including seven individuals involved in the racket – 11 women and three children, who were expected to be handed over to harbour police for legal proceedings.
Another group of asylum seekers bound for Australia was intercepted on Wednesday – the fourth vessel to be halted by the Sri Lankan Navy in recent weeks
Passengers on the boat (pictured) were 50 males – including seven individuals involved in the racket, 11 women and three children. They were handed over to harbour police for legal proceedings
The suspects, who attempted to migrate because of ‘a high risk to their lives’, are residents of Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Jaffna in the north of the country
The suspects, who attempted to migrate because of ‘a high risk to their lives’, are residents of Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Jaffna in the north of the country.
Sri Lanka’s navy pleaded for people to not engage with smugglers and called the boats used in the recent capture ‘ruinous fishing vessels’.
‘The navy urges the public to avoid being convicted before the law by being caught in the trap of smugglers who persuade the innocent to engage in illegal and perilous sea voyages to migrate from the island,’ it said in a statement.
Sri Lanka’s navy said the boats used in the recent interceptions are ‘ruinous fishing vessels’
The island nation is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence from the British in 1948, with some opting to flee from the food, fuel and medicine shortages plaguing the country.
These shortages, coupled with record inflation and lengthy blackouts, have brought severe hardships to Sri Lankans.
The nation is nearly bankrupt and has suspended repayment of about $7 billion in foreign loans due this year out of $25 billion to be repaid by 2026.
The country’s total foreign debt is $51 billion.
Violence erupted on the streets last month when hundreds of protesters clashed with police, amid anger over government mismanagement.
The mishandling and pandemic woes caused a severe shortage of foreign currency in the country, which is usually used to buy essential imports like fuel.
Sri Lanka’s navy (pictured with the wayward boat) are urging the public to not engage with people smugglers in the ‘illegal and perilous’ sea journeys
The group (pictured) were apprehended ‘attempting to illegally migrate from the country via sea routes’, authorities said
The boat (pictured) is the fourth to be detained attempting to navigate the Indian Ocean, with this one carrying three children on board
The navy said seven of the men caught on the boat were involved in the ‘racket’
Why Sri Lanka is grappling with dire economic turmoil
Critics say the root of the crisis, the worst in several decades, lies in economic mismanagement by successive governments.
Deep tax cuts enacted months before the pandemic have accelerated the country’s crisis.
The cuts were promised by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during a 2019 election campaign, and have wiped out parts of Sri Lanka’s economy.
The country’s lucrative tourism industry was sapped by the pandemic, with credit ratings agencies moving to downgrade Sri Lanka – effectively locking it out of international capital markets.
Sri Lanka’s debt management program which depended on accessing those markets, derailed – then foreign exchange reserves plummeted by almost 70 per cent within two years.
A decision to ban all chemical fertilizers in 2021 hit the farming sector hard triggering a drop in rice produce.
Source: Indian Express