By Asiri Fernando
The Sri Lanka Navy has stepped up patrolling the north and north western seas in a bid to stop illegal immigration attempts from India, as concerns grow about the possible transmission of the Indian COVID-19 strain to Sri Lanka.
According to Navy Spokesman Captain Indika de Silva, the Navy has moved several additional vessels to stations in the north and northwest to patrol the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between Sri Lanka and India to prevent illegal immigration across the Palk Strait.
The Navy informed the fishing and coastal communities to be vigilant of illegal immigration and trafficking and has urged the public to report any suspicious behaviour to the Police, Coast Guard or Navy. The fishing community has also been warned not to be in contact with foreign fishermen due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.
According to Capt. De Silva, last week four Indian fishing vessels along with 21 Indian nationals were arrested for smuggling in Sri Lankan waters. The vessels and suspected smugglers had been repatriated to Indian waters due to the COVID-19 situation and to prevent any transmission from them to local communities.
The Navy established new coastal observation points and have also stepped-up foot and vehicle patrols along the northwest coast to prevent illegal immigration.