Members of paramilitary groups are carrying on a lucrative trade smuggling out Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from camps for large sums of money, an investigation by the Sunday Times revealed.
The rate for release of a person in Vavuniya stands at Rs 100,000 whilst those “delivered” to Colombo or the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is Rs 500,000 now, our Insight Team found. This is because the demand had tapered off. Earlier, charges stood at Rs 200,000 and Rs 700,000.
Agents who are working as frontmen, putting through deals for securing the release of IDPs, are operating from guesthouses and homes in Vavuniya. Next of kin, some from abroad, who arrive in the town by train have filled these guesthouses and lodges. They register with the Police and make a beeline to discuss terms and conclude deals.
“I am aware that people are leaving the camps illegally. But we do not know how this is happening,” Resettlement Minister Rishard Bathiuddeen told The Sunday Times. He is the Government Minister in charge of IDP camps and responsible for the re-settlement of the inmates.
The Immigration Controller, P.B. Abeykoon, believes most persons now leave Sri Lanka illegally by boats. “Human trafficking through the airport has been curbed due to security measures we have adopted,” he said.
However, he said, “We still have a problem. There are people producing false documents such as Birth Certificates or National Identity Cards.” Every day, he said, “we get about 10 to 15 cases involving forged documents.” They are referred to the Police Fraud Bureau.
The Insight Team found that a sizeable number of civilians from the North sold their possessions including gold or received remittances from their relatives abroad. They paid kingpins in a human trafficking ring sums ranging from Rs 1.2 to Rs 1.5 million to travel abroad in multi-day fishing trawlers.
Most headed for Australia and New Zealand. This was through the coastline from Negombo.