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Cablegate: Gsl Interdicts Human Smuggling Attempts,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001343

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, S/CT, INL, G/TIP, CA/VO/F/P

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PHUM PTER CVIS KFRD CE PK
SUBJECT: GSL interdicts human smuggling attempts,
highlighting new trend involving third country nationals

Refs: (A) FBIS Reston Va DTG 010033X Aug 03
- (B) Milan 476 (Notal)
- (C) Colombo 1267, and previous

(U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified -- Please
handle accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In recent weeks, the GSL has
interdicted several large-scale human smuggling
attempts. Those netted in the raids (over 800 people)
have overwhemingly been third country nationals, mostly
from India and Pakistan. This is a departure from an
earlier trend involving mainly locals. The GSL is
committed to combatting the problem, which seems to have
been sparked by liberalized visa rules. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) INTERDICTIONS: In recent weeks, Sri Lankan
authorities have interdicted several large-scale human
smuggling attempts. The interdictions, most of which
occurred in areas along Sri Lanka's southwest coast near
Colombo, have included:

-- On June 23, Sri Lankan police arrested 166 people.
Those arrested were mostly Pakistani, but included some
Bangladeshis.

-- On June 30, police arrested 260 people, the vast
majority of whom were Pakistani.

-- On July 17, police arrested 115 people. Most of
those arrested were Indian, along with some Pakistanis.

-- On July 20, police arrested 114 people, most of whom
were Indian.

-- On July 24, police arrested 174 people, most of whom
were Indian and Pakistani nationals.

-- On July 31, police arrested 21 people from both India
and Pakistan.

3. (SBU) While there have been some releases, most of
the over 800 people arrested are still being detained
for further investigation. Superintendent Samaratunga
of the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) told us
that only 33 individuals have been released thus far,
leaving over 700 still in jail. (Note: See Para Seven
regarding recent arrests of several alleged "kingpins,"
who were said to be orchestrating the operations.)

4. (SBU) THE LATEST TREND: Based on what we have
picked up from the GSL, this latest trend in human
smuggling seems to center on the use of the existing
network of modified fishing trawlers that have been used
in years past to try to smuggle Sri Lankans out of the
country. (Note: Smuggling operations involving Sri
Lankan nationals are said to still exist, but the
authorities believe this sort of trafficking has sharply
decreased in the past year as traffickers focus more on
third country nationals -- see Reftels.) Using these
modified vessels, the human smugglers make a roughly
three-week trip across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea,
where the illegal immigrants are transferred onto larger
vessels. According to reports, if successful, many of
the illegal immigrants wind up in Europe, especially
Italy and Greece.

5. (SBU) THE ROLE OF VISA RULE CHANGES: According to
the government, the demographic change in those smuggled
out of Sri Lanka from locals to third country nationals
is most likely due to two key developments. First and
most importantly, Sri Lanka, in staggered phases, has
allowed visitors from South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to get visas on
entry. In the past, citizen from SAARC countries had to
get visas at the appropriate Sri Lankan embassy or
consulate before traveling to Sri Lanka. The old rule
allowed the GSL to do at least a modicum of screening of
those intending to travel to Sri Lanka, which is not
possible under the new rule. Second, direct air service
to Sri Lanka from Pakistan recently reopened after a
long hiatus, providing a convenient method for Pakistani
nationals to enter the country. (Note: Pakistan
International Airlines recently restarted a thrice-
weekly round-trip flight between Karachi and Colombo.)

6. (SBU) COMMENT: The Sri Lankan government seems
fully committed to combatting the human smuggling
problem. The Interior Ministry is focused on the issue,
holding regular meetings with representatives of
concerned local embassies. (Note: The Interior
Ministry, for example, is also aware of the
counterterrorism concerns involved when examining human
smuggling operations. From what we understand, no CT
nexus has been found involving the current crop of
cases.)

7. (SBU) The police are also seized with the matter
and, in recent days, they have arrested several alleged
Sri Lankan "human smuggling kingpins." That said, the
most logical move to counter the current human smuggling
epidemic appears to involve the GSL's adjustment of
visa rules for SAARC nationals back to the status quo
ante (i.e., no visa on arrival). This is difficult to
do, as the new rules have brought in a huge number of
legitimate tourists, especially from India, which has
helped buck up the island's fragile tourism industry.
END COMMENT.

8. (U) Minimize considered.

ENTWISTLE

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