The Indian Navy and Coast Guard on Wednesday are continuing their search for a fishing boat that left from Kerala thought to be carrying passengers illegally migrating to Australia, PTI reported. The vessel, Daya Mata, is suspected to have left Munambam on January 12, a defence ministry spokesperson said.
The Navy and Coast Guard have deployed several vessels in the search. “Inputs, as and when received, will be shared with state administration,” the spokesperson said.
A preliminary inquiry indicated that 40 people who had been staying in resorts and homestays in Cherai and Munambam were on board the vessel. The boat, which has a fake registration address, had been bought by two men identified as Anil Kumar and Srikanthan before it set sail, the Kerala police said.
Kerala Police’s Special Branch Deputy Superintendent VG Raveendranath told The News Minute that the people aboard the vessel were from across India. He said that they “could have been from Sri Lanka, but had been living in India for many years”.
Anil Kumar was detained and questioned but not arrested. Srikanthan, a Sri Lankan native who had lived in India for three years, was still at large, said Raveendranath.
An unidentified Coast Guard official told the news website that it did not seem that the group had been forcibly trafficked but that they had left India voluntarily.
The police had initially said that the boat was headed to New Zealand but later acknowledged that they could not confirm its destination. In 2015, Australia had said they would intercept people who were attempting to illegally enter the country and detain them at Regional Processing Centres in Nauru or Manus Island (in Papua New Guinea).