Lured by the promise of safe haven in Australia, but abandoned in the mid-sea, 120 Tamil refugees from across various Sri Lankan refugee camps in the State were rescued from a stranded fishing boat off the Velankanni coast on Saturday.
The mechanised fishing trawler was abandoned by the boat’s master some 15 km east of Nagapattinam, defence sources said in Chennai.
The refugees, including 20 women and 22 children, from camps in Coimbatore, Tiruchi, Vellore, Chennai and Tirunelveli had converged in Velankanni for the journey that commenced just after midnight on Saturday. They had paid between Rs. 1.20 lakh and Rs. 2.30 lakh each to make the journey after an agent promised them settlement and employment in Australia.
The boat, with spare food and water supplies and unhygienic conditions, failed due to a snag some four hours into the journey. The boat driver jumped into the waters and boarded a faster craft straddling the main boat, an official told The Hindu.