Eight years ago, several families from a refugee community in south Delhi’s Madangir village migrated to Australia in search of jobs and better lives.
The “tried and tested experiment” inspired other residents when a similar opportunity of settling down in New Zealand came by in December last year. Paying Rs 3 lakh for an adult and Rs 1 lakh for a child, around 100 people took a chance that never paid off. They were among 200-odd people who went missing when a boat, Daya Mata 2 IND- KL-04/MM2676, which left from Kerala’s Munambam harbour for New Zealand in January this year, did not reach its destination.
“Those who went to Australia are living happily and have secure jobs. The process of moving from India to another country looked easy to us,” said 40-year-old Kuppo, who goes by her first name and is among the family members of those who have gone missing.
As per the reports, the boat was ferrying immigrants through the straits between Indonesia and Australia where storms and typhoons are common. As reported by The Indian Express in January, the Kerala Police had arrested Prabhu, a 29-year-old Tamil youth who lives in Dr Ambedkar Nagar Colony in South Delhi, for his alleged connection with the kingpins of the illegal migration racket — Srikanth, the owner of the boat, Ravindra and Shantha Kumar.
The preliminary probe had suggested the boat was packed to capacity, with people on board as well as in the hull and middle deck.
While police estimate around 50 people are missing from a Madangir neighbourhood, residents have prepared a list of over 100.
Hoping that her family and an unborn grandchild are safe, Asha dials her son’s number every day. The phone is always switched off. “All I want to know is that they are okay,” she said, looking at the ID card of her 19-year-old son.
Her son Dilip and his wife Radhika, who was seven months pregnant, left home in December 2018 and promised they will call her to New Zealand as soon as they settle down.
The plan to take people to New Zealand was formed when families of two people, who left for Australia in 2010, came back and told the others they could move to New Zealand. Members from both families are also on the list of missing people.
“We were told the ship will reach the destination in 45 days. It has now been more than three months and we have not heard from them,” said Karan Naidu, who is waiting for his 22-year-old brother Arjun Naidu.
Last week, the families wrote to the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and marked it to the L-G, Ministries of External Affairs and Home Affairs, the Delhi CM and Delhi Police, requesting their intervention.