Forty-nine among them were from Nagapattinam district; 13 from Ramanathapuram and 16 from Pudukottai district. They were all arrested by Sri Lankan Navy in the mid-sea since September.
Police sources said the fishermen were brought by the Coast Guard vessel ‘Sagar’. Upon arrival at Karaikal port, the Coast Guard personnel handed over the fishermen to the Fisheries Department.
Fisheries Minister K.A. Jayapal, Commissioner of Fisheries Beela Rajesh, Nagapattinam District Collector S. Palanisamy and Fisheries Department officials were present at the Karaikal port.
At a Rameswaram jetty, 48 fishermen, including seven from Tuticorin, arrived carrying tales of woes.
Earlier, ICG vessel Rajkamal received the fishermen from the Lankan Navy at the International Maritime Border Line (IMBL). Braving heavy rains, family members of the fishermen thronged the fishing jetty to receive them. The Tuticorin fishermen were taken in a van soon after.
The Rameswaram fishermen who had been languishing in Anurathapuram prison complained that they were treated in inhuman manner in the prison.
On many days they could not eat as the food smelt bad. Paul (20) a fisherman from Thangachimadam said he suffered from food poisoning and was treated in the jail hospital.
Before repatriation, the Lankan Navy warned them they would be detained in prison for a minimum of two years if they were found poaching again, a fisherman said. Meanwhile, U Arulanandham and P Sesu Raja, fishermen leaders, urged the Centre to secure the release of the boats before they suffered damage due to the vagaries of weather.