Thursday, May 29, 2003

SOMALIA: 133 would-be illegal immigrants detained in Puntland
NAIROBI, 29 MAY 2003 (IRIN) - The authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have detained a group of migrants who were waiting to be smuggled into western Europe, Puntland's deputy information minister told IRIN on Thursday.

Abdishakur Mire Adan said 133 Sri Lankans had entered Puntland under "false pretences". The people who had brought them here from the United Arab Emirates a few months ago had obtained visas for them as "commercial fishermen", he said.

Investigations by the authorities revealed that the Sri Lankans were to be smuggled into Europe. "We have established that the traffickers had charged them up to US $6,000 each to get them into western Europe by boat," Abdishakur told IRIN.

He said the Sri Lankans had now been detained and were being kept in a guarded compound until they could be repatriated. "We have asked for assistance in repatriating them, but have so far had no positive response," he added. MORE

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