The government has made a statement that it will prosecute people smugglers to the full extent of the law. This means that hitherto, this has not taken place, and thousands of Sri Lankans of all races have been able to leave the country’s shores primarily if not exclusively by sea to destinations far and wide. Of course India has been the quickest escape route to refugees fleeing the war, where over 100,000 currently reside in camps, many of which are in a far worse state than the IDP camps in Vavuniya except that they are not surrounded by barbed wire!!
There are those fleeing tyranny, and others willing to risk their lives to start a better life in a developed economy where they perceive they will have a better life. I know Sri Lankans who have taken this route all the way to Italy, and who are living there illegally hoping one day to legalize their status. Some of whom have done well for themselves in those countries and who have been able to send money home, as evidenced by the little Italy mansions in Wennapuwa.
This route to Italy is still being carried out by professionals who charge a huge fee, and some sell all their personal assets in Sri Lanka to make this journey. For their sake one hopes they get lucky, as it is a gamble! The latest incidents that have been in the news is as a result of the Australian Coast Guard alerting the authorities in Indonesia to intercept boats at their behest, with the promise that costs of holding them will be borne by Australia, while a diplomatic rumpus is created as to their fate, whatever the outcome they will not be returned to SL.
In the latter category are those who have paid handsomely for this journey, and if they just wished to flee the country they could have just hopped a fishing boat to India at very little cost. I firmly believe all those making the hazardous journey are taking a gamble that they hope will pay off, namely receiving refugee status even though for all intents and purposes they are hoping for a better life. They are economic refugees. They say they do not want to be second class citizens in Sri Lanka, but really will they be first class citizens in Australia that has treated their own native Aboriginal population as second class citizens.
It is clear from my interaction with many in Sri Lanka that they are all seeking the opportunity to go overseas. They are not necessarily thinking in the long term, just that they wish to leave for better prospects than they currently have. Some have lost fortunes to people who have duped them with the promise of either employment or visas or both and have disappeared with their money. The only way to arrest this need is to sell Sri Lanka to the Sri Lankans. That is the challenge!!!
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