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No risk too high for Sri Lankans wanting to migrate

August 19, 2012

UDAPPUWA (Sri Lanka), Aug 19: Two Sri Lankan brothers who joined a wave of asylum seekers heading for Australia were arrested at sea, thrown in jail and face an ongoing court case — but they say they will soon try to reach the country again.Ramalingam Kandamoorthy, 35, and sibling Mahadevan, 31, from the remote hamlet of Udappuwa, had spent two days aboard a trawler in the Indian Ocean with 50 others when they were stopped by Sri Lanka's navy.

The brothers, both fishermen, were arrested for illegal emigration and held in prison before being granted bail and returning to Udappuwa, 100 kilometres north of Colombo, to await their court hearing.

But undeterred by the setbacks and legal constrictions the pair refuse to settle back into village life.

“We will try to go again after the case is over. We just have to wait for some time,” Kandamoorthy said at his hut made of palm leaves as he recalled his attempt in June to flee to a new life abroad. His younger brother Mahadevan agrees. “The future here is very bleak. We want to get out of poverty,” he said. “I can be a labourer or a cleaner in Australia.” Neither of them speak English, but they were told that language was not a problem for the menial but relatively well-paid jobs available to migrants who arrive in Australia, often via Southeast Asia, and then try to claim asylum.

Another fisherman in Udappuwa, Shivanandan, 27, who only uses one name, said he wanted to make the perilous trip, which can take two weeks, but was unable to raise the 300,000 rupees ($2,300) required to pay people-smugglers.

“There are several families from this village who have gone to Australia and Italy,” he said. “They are doing very well. They have sent money to build proper houses, unlike our huts. They are not in debt.” The Udappuwa area is ethnically Tamil, but the end of fighting between the government and Tamil rebels in 2009 after decades of warfare has failed to bring any peace dividend.—AFP