India, Lanka exchange fishermen

The Indian Coast Guard and the Sri Lankan navy were to exchanged fishermen arrested from both countries.

The exchange was to take place at the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) this morning.

India was to receive 26 Karaikal fishermen, who were ordered released by the Magistrate court in Sri Lanka while nine Sri Lankan fishermen and their two boats were to be handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy, the Hindu newspaper reported.

Coast Guard sources in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu told the Hindu that Rani Abbakka, an inshore patrol vessel, had already left Chennai for north Palk Bay with the nine fishermen and their two trawlers for their repatriation.

The Sri Lankan fishermen were arrested north off Chennai in April for illegal fishing, the sources added. Rani Abbakka, after receiving the Karaikal fishermen with their five trawlers at the IMBL, would take them directly to Karaikal and hand them over to Deputy Director, Fisheries Department, on the high seas near Point Calimere.

The Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on April 5 for illegally fishing in their waters and remained in prison for about one-and-a-half months. The Kayts Island Magistrate court had ordered their release on Monday, but they could not leave immediately as the sea was rough.

“The sea is still rough, but we are trying our best. The repatriation of the fishermen will take place around 10 am on Thursday at the IMBL,” H.H. More, Commandant of the Mandapam Station of Indian Coast Guard, told The Hindu. It has been decided to take the fishermen directly to Karaikal to avoid further hardship to them, he said.

The decision would help the fishermen to save almost a day. Moreover, the fishermen have to spend a large amount of money on fuel to sail to Karaikal if they were brought to Mandapam station. Sources said the fishermen are expected to reach near Karaikal on Thursday night and the handing over would take place the next day morning.

U.Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), said the Deputy Director, Fisheries would receive the fishermen off Point Calimere on Friday morning and the fishermen are expected to reach home by afternoon.