At least 24 persons who had tried to flee Sri Lanka and illegally enter Australia illegally by boat were nabbed by authorities of the respective countries on two different occasions last week.

The first group, consisting of 18 persons, was nabbed by the Navy on August 15 as they were sailing 40 nautical miles off Batticaloa.

The Navy said that the suspects had set sail from Valaichenai.

Two days later, the Australian authorities had intercepted another boat carrying six Sri Lankans and had deported them back to Sri Lanka.

Arthur WamananThe number of Sri Lankans fleeing Australia and the Europe was on a high at least two years ago which resulted in several of these countries implementing strict regulations on immigrants.

A few years ago, many of those who fled the country by boat had to do so to escape the brutal war and its side effects. Hundreds of them sought asylum in Rameshwaram in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu State of India.

Even as the war came to an end, many opted to leave the country by boat to ensure safety.

Even though many of the countries had adopted stringent laws pertaining to illegal immigrants, many of these countries tried to accommodate them on the basis of the war.
However, this phenomenon continued to be reported with more and more people trying to flee the country and some of them being caught at mid sea and repatriated.

Economic situation   
According to reports, many of those who had tried to leave in the recent times had attempted to do so mainly due to economic reasons. Many of them were in debt and wanted a way to pay off the burden.

Their lives after the war did change. The Government launched several livelihood programmes for the affected people. However, the fact that they continued to leave the country for better lives indicated that they expected something more.

In their effort to flee, many had to pay the so-called boat operators thousands of rupees. Many of them would have had to borrow money or mortgage their assets with the hope that they would be able to repay the money.

A special operation was launched a few years ago by the government and the law enforcement authorities to nab the racket behind human smuggling. Many were nabbed.
However, the recent arrests and deportation reaffirms that the issue is not completely over. There are people looking for greener pastures and are desperate to reach them.
There are those who lure them to travel to these countries by boats after obtaining large sums of money.

Sri Lanka used as launchpad
In 2012, the issue was so serious that It was reported that Sri Lanka was used as a launchpad for human smuggling. Immigration authorities in Sri Lanka adopted a stringent screening process on foreign nationals especially from Pakistan and Afghanistan after reports emerged that Sri Lanka was used as a departure point by foreign asylum seekers.
While it is important for authorities to be vigilant and continue to nab the perpetrators, it is also important to look at the other side of the story.

The only way that the issue would be completely solved is if the needs of the people are addressed. The authorities should establish a mechanism or a programme to identify the needs of the people and give them the assurance that they would be given adequate opportunity to earn money according to their needs.

In addition, the government should also look into the wellbeing of those who were deported. They had paid thousands of rupees to smugglers and now they have nothing to take home. They would have to work double to repay the debt and to spend for their families. This could push them to the edge of their lives.