Kerala police on Friday arrested three persons in connection with the illegal migration of 100-odd people from Kochi coast.
Nearly a 100 people boarded a fishing boat and allegedly left for New Zealand on January 12 from Munambam fishing harbour near Kochi. Police are still clueless about the whereabouts of the boat and the people on board. Kochi range IG Vijay Sakhare said the incident could not be reckoned as human trafficking, but only illegal migration. The arrested persons face charges under Indian Passport Act, Foreigners Act, Emigration Act and sections 120 (B), 109, 468 and 471 of the IPC, he said.
The arrested persons are Anil Kumar from Thiruvananthauram, and Prabhu Dhandapani and Ravi Raja from Delhi. According to police, Kumar purchased the fishing boat while the other two accused brought people from Delhi for the illegal migration. The key accused behind the illegal migration are still at large, said the IG.
The incident came to fore when police stumbled upon 13 abandoned bags in a private plot at Maliankara and another seven bags at a resort in Ernakulam rural district on January 12. Investigation revealed that 100-odd people came here and stayed at resorts near Munambam before leaving.
Police have found that most people who boarded the boat are relatives of Sri Lankan migrants in India. According to police, the accused have told them that the fishing boat was stocked with 12,000 litres of fuel. The boat, Dayamatha, was sold by Jibin Antony of Munambam to Kumar and one Sreekanthan at Rs 2.2 crore. Police have found documents which show that Sreekanthan, now missing, has Lankan citizenship.
Police said those arrested have said each person paid Rs 1.50 lakh for the journey and 20 people could not be accommodated, Ravi and Prabhu among them.
Another officer said police don’t have any information about the boat. “The arrested persons say that the boat left for New Zealand. What we can confirm is that a group of people came to Munambam and left the coast in a fishing boat. We don’t even know the exact number of people. Navy and Coast Guard haven’t provided any information,’’ said the officer.
A defence official said a search was launched for the ship a day after the boat left the harbour. “The search is on. Even if the boat moves at 10 nautical miles per hour, it would have covered 240 nautical miles by the time the search began. That means it would have passed the exclusive economic zone (up to 200 nautical miles). So the chances of locating it are dim,’’ said a source.