Sri Lanka plans early repatriation of 303 migrants attempting to sail to Canada

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that it is working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the country’s mission in Vietnam for the early repatriation of 303 Sri Lankans, who were rescued off the Spratly Islands following a failed attempt to migrate to Canada.

It said that the screening of Sri Lankans – 264 men, 19 women, and 20 children who were rescued from the Myanmar-flagged Lady 3 fishing vessel would be done by the IOM in coordination with the Vietnam authorities and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Vietnam.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to work closely with the Sri Lanka Missions in the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and IOM for early repatriation, once the screening process to ascertain their nationality and other formalities are completed,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It said that it continues to monitor the progress of the passengers of Sri Lankan origin who were rescued and bought to the Port of Vung Tau in Vietnam on Tuesday.

The Sri Lanka Navy told IANS that following a call by a Sri Lankan in the distressed

boat on early Monday, the Navy and Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Colombo alerted Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines to help those onboard.

SL Navy spokesman, Captain Indika de Silva said following the alert, the passengers in the drifting vessel had been rescued by a Japanese vessel. “The vessel with the distressed passengers had not originated from Sri Lanka,” he said.

According to Vietnam’s Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre, the fishing vessel was heading to Canada, about 6,000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean. Each member in the group had paid around $4,000 to $5,000 to migrate to Canada via a fishing vessel after they had flown to Myanmar from Colombo.

There had been an issue with the ship and water flowed into the engine room and

could not be fixed since November 5, the Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre stated.

After rescuing all aboard the drifting vessel, Japanese-flagged vessel “Helios Leader” had handed them over to Vietnam authorities at Vung Tau Port in south Vietnam.

Affected by inflation and dollar crunch, many Sri Lankans try to leave their home

in search of green pastures, both legally and illegally. With the severe shortages of

food, fuel, medicine and other basic essentials, many have been making boat journeys to the closest neighbour India and taking up perilous boat rides to Australia.




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