Refugees abandoned on mid sea sandbank

[TamilNet, Sunday, 08 August 2004, 12:06 GMT]
Nine refugees who were abandoned by two Indian boatmen on a sandbank in the middle of the sea in the Gulf of Mannar were rescued by a fisherman from Thalaimannar Saturday. Mannar magistrate released them when they were produced before him by Thalaimannar Police Sunday. The refugees said the boatmen had forced them to get off on a small shifting sandbank at midsea around midnight on Thursday. The influx of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees from state run camps in South India who risk illegal and dangerous sea journeys to reach Mannar has increased dramatically recently.

The refugees said that they had paid a very high fee to the Indian boatmen for the journey across the sea from the South Indian coast to Mannar.

Three of them had set out late in the evening on Thursday from Thanushkodi and six from Rameswaram on the southern part of the Tamil Nadu coast.

The boatmen had promised to take them to Thalaimannar, they said.

"We spent more than 35 hours without food and water on the precarious sandbank in the middle of the sea. Many fishermen saw us but did not come near. However, a fisherman saw us obtained permission from the Sri Lanka Navy at Thalaimannar and came back to rescue us around 11 a.m. on Saturday. Thalaimannar Navy questioned us when we got ashore and then handed us over to the Police the same day", one of the refugees told TamilNet.

Despite the influx of refugees and the human risk involved no measures have been taken by the governments of Sri Lanka and India to facilitate their safe return, officials in Mannar lament.

 

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