Destiny of refuge-seekers
Posted on August 9th, 2012

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Wennapuwa Police arresting 37 Tamils and four Muslims awaiting departure by sea at a guest house in Vaikkal on August 6 records another foiled ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”human smuggling bidƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. The issue on Sri Lankans who are being smuggled in boatloads by immigration racketeers to Australia has suddenly become a hot potato.

Despite Sri Lanka Police arrests and NavyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s vigilant patrolling exercises from this end, the irony seems to be that when swindlers manage to escape with human cargo from any vigilant sea patrol, the Australian Navy is reportedly ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”extending a red carpet treatment to welcome such asylum seekers and take them direct to detention campsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢!

Lucrative business

Recently the Australian High Commissioner in Colombo was in the news intervening in the issue and demonstrating her displeasure about this illegal activity. Nevertheless, the latest communiquƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚© from the Sri Lanka Ministry of External Affairs to all foreign governments with a robust request to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”deportƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ any illegal asylum seeker back to Sri Lanka will be seen globally as a justifiable action and a consolation to many foreign governments who are saddled with the illegal immigration menace, while conveying a sound message to the international community that after the terrorist war Sri Lanka is a free country for every citizen despite all adverse reports by various unscrupulous elements to tarnish its good name.

Illegal immigrants. File photo

Prior to Vaikkal incident, the Police arrests of three smugglers (including a TNA politician) involving 82 persons inside the vessels Namo Maria and Sinhale go to show how the latest racket has transformed into a lucrative money spinner where innocent victims having to part with anything over Rs.200,000 per person as smugglersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ fee. Quite a few Tamils among boat victims are believed to be supported and encouraged by LTTE rumps abroad appearing as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”DiasporaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”humanitarian advocatesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ who in turn have successfully managed to brainwash even church leaders with ulterior motives.

Modern history reveals that millions of people in war ravaged countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have taken to the ocean in crude and overcrowded boats to escape oppression or poverty in their countries.

Psychological trauma

Equally thousands have perished during such arduous journeys; few lucky ones who escaped drowning have languished in refugee camps for years until several countries that have ratified the UN 1967 Refugee Convention negotiated and absorbed them into their countries creating a global refugee consortium. The UNHCR, who set up refugee camps in neighbouring countries, under the auspices of the United Nations to process the ‘boat people’ received the 1981 Nobel Peace Prize for such action.

The unfortunate fact is that some people in Sri Lanka today are motivated to leave the country, completely being brainwashed to think that life abroad is a bed of roses, purely for economic reasons after paying enormous sums of money to fraudsters at times by ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”burning their boatsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢!

If and when they succeed to remain and settle down in a foreign country, refugees might be able to enjoy material contentment to a certain extent even with social benefits from foreign governments, but will they be emotionally happy would be a million dollar question? OneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s love for oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s mother country is magnetic and indefinable, and it is an undisputable fact unless of course for egotistical reasons one could act overtly as being contended in a foreign land, but covertly going through psychological trauma realising for oneself that he/she is a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”second classƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ citizenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and a foreigner.

Fleeing from Sri Lanka to the West particularly, began a few moons ago.

The escalation of terrorism by the Tigers of Eelam paved the way for thousands of Tamils to seek refuge in Western countries, with complaints of human right violations and their lives being at stake.

They managed to safely arrive in Colombo from all corners of Sri Lanka and go through immigration control at the Bandaranaike International Airport with legitimate visas and airline tickets to travel abroad!

Many who attempted twist and turn journeys with the motive of entering Britain, which at one time was regarded as a refugee haven, have been subjected to countless disasters, while quite a few have vanished into thin air without their whereabouts ever being found! During the journey from Marseilles to Dover by boats, for instance, several unfortunate victims have ended up at the bottom of the sea after smugglers pushing victims into the deep ocean closer to borders, ordering them to swim across the last patch!

Detention camps

Those who travelled by cargo ferries inside containers were reportedly packed like sardines, either in standing or sleeping postures and obscured under wooden panels to protect them from immigration detection while crossing the English Channel. At the end of such boorish treatment and a sadistic journey survivors were exhausted, others dead and become fodder for fish in the ocean. The UN estimates that over 200,000-400,000 boat people have perished at sea.

Despite such hazards and uncertainty why do ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”boat peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ take such risks with their lives? Basic problem could be their hallucinations of grandeur thinking life abroad would be glorious. Also those who had managed to scrape through before and by keeping their traumas under wraps make aspirants to embark on such expeditions with more determination. In such a sensitive scenario even a sound advice could be construed as being ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”jealousƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢!

After going through every rack, spending months in detention camps and should they become fortunate to be absorbed into an unfamiliar society many employers would have second thoughts of hiring an asylum seeker as an employee! The most heartbreaking factor seems to be the fate of unaccompanied children sent by parents solo being unable to raise adequate funds to accompany them.

In a strange land, surrounded by strangers, and in the absence of any family around them, it would be hard to analyse the mental state of such children? Will all the good intentions of giving children a better future, in the best possible manner by parents, be compensated for by the deprivation of kith and kin and the persecuted feeling they harbour while growing up in Australia or in any other country?

3 Responses to “Destiny of refuge-seekers”

  1. aloy Says:

    How these people find money to pay the racketeers need to be investigated. If they can put their lives at risk to travel in rickety boats they can also do similar things to find money. Are they smugling drugs from India to fund these trips in which case nothing is lost even if they are caght by armed forces before departure.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    It is time to show the travails and disappointments of such boat trips through media in Sri Lanka. What Dr Tilak Fernando says should be made into films in easy to watch story form, and actual stories of illegal migrants told to Sri Lankans and the world.
    A study should be done on what makes people want to ‘escape’ – false hopes may be a prime reason. Over crowding in a small island home another.

    In the meantime, job creation in Sri Lanka should take a frontline. Also, population control through family planning and birth control material, subsidised and freely available to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

    Illegal migrants in Sri Lanka should be deported. They come mainly from Tamil Nadu and possibly other parts of India too. They ought to be sent back. Illegal migration into Lanka took place in large numbers during ltte rule of the North.

  3. callistus Says:

    ‘Rata giya attho’ has to be re-filmed highlighting some unfortunate incidents.

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