After four months of investigation, two of the human smugglers involved in abandoning over 200 Lankans in Togo, West Africa, after promising to take them to Canada, were arrested, police said.
Kandiah Mohanrajah, alias Michael of Vavuniya and Arunagirinadan Jayaruben were arrested for abetting illegal migration to Europe, North America, Australia and Canada.
|The strandad Sri Lankans in a camp in Togo
However, the leader of this group Kaliyuga Varadhan of Canada, is still at large, and Interpol support will be sought to arrest him.
Those who were abandoned in Togo, returned with the help of International Organization for Migration (IOM). Since January 8, more than 165 returned through IOM on several occasions, while 51 of the abandoned are still in Togo, said the returnees. Meanwhile, about five of them have escaped from detention, they said.
The returnees comprised youth, families and even underage children. They paid the agents after having mortgaged their houses, pawned their jewellery and by obtaining loans.They claim that they were assured by the IOM of financial aid, but have not been provided any yet.
Previously, President of the Batticaloa Building Contractors Union, Vasantharajah was arrested and later released on bail due to insufficient evidence. Panchadcharan Rajan, Susila and Lakshmi, who worked as sub agents have yet to be arrested.
Meanwhile, information has been received that those detained in Guinea and Male have been arrested.
They were assured legal work permits in Canada, on payment of Rs 250,000 in two installments.
Their journey started in July 2011, with their phones confiscated on arrival in Colombo, so they had no way of contacting anybody anywhere.
On November 18, the sub agent in charge of the house in Togo, had informed that they were proceeding to Ghana, and from there to Canada by ship. It was only then they knew it was a boat journey to Canada.
The Togo police surrounded their camp on November 20 at 3.15 am and arrested all of them saying their visas had expired.
“From there they took us to a camp, could be that of the Immigration dept. They spoke French, and knew a little English. Detainees in five other houses were brought in and there were 209 in all, including 11 babies,” said one of the returnees.
They were in the camp from November 20 to January 4, and during this period, the United Nations (UN), International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) and a number of humanitarian organizations visited them.
“The sub agents told us not to return to our country, that they would make arrangements to release us, which led us to quarrel,” he said.
The returnees said that, at present, there are more than 480 people in Togo, Ghana, Mali and Venice. They include people from Batticaloa, Valachchenai, Vandaramalai, Thirukkovil and Chenkaladi.