Sri Lanka border controlling authorities have put their sleuths on high alert at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) as a growing trend of human smuggling cases was seen in the last few weeks and having detected 102 such attempts this year from January 1st to date.
In two latest cases reported yesterday and Saturday, three foreigners arrive in Sri Lanka as transit passengers respectively – a Chad national coming from Qatar with forged Canadian travel documents and an Indian couple trying to gain access to the Netherlands with forged Chinese passports.
The immigration officials at the BIA counters felt suspicious about the 31-year-old Chad national’s travel documents and had referred them to the BSU (Border Surveillance Unit), which is equipped with a state-of-the-art laboratory to examine forged documents.
The BSU officials have found that the Canadian passport used by the Chad national was forged and he was subsequently handed back to the particular airline last evening to be sent back to Qatar, immigration sources at the airport said.
Meanwhile, an Indian couple with physical similarities to Chinese nationals, who had arrived in Sri Lanka on June 26th, had come to the BIA on Saturday morning to leave for Kuwait with Chinese passports.
The local border surveillance officials who felt suspicious about their travel documents had checked them at the BSU lab to find them forged. The couple, the male aged 43 and the female aged 29 had planned to leave for Kuwait from Colombo and then to Turkey and to the Netherlands as their final destination.
When the couple was searched, the officials found two genuine Indian passports belonging to them. The forged Chinese passports for USD 6, 000 were given to them by a broker on their flight to Colombo. The couple had stayed in Sri Lanka for more than a month.
When contacted, a senior investigating officer of the border control unit of the Department of Immigration and Emigration told the Daily Mirror the prevailing economic crisis following the Covid pandemic had compelled people to leave the country through illegal means.
The immigration authorities have detected 137 cases in 2022, 46 cases in 2021, 34 cases in 2020 and 20 cases in 2019 and they were mostly heading for Italy, Canada, France and the UK.
The official said seven Sri Lankan nationals from the North were arrested in the last two weeks alone trying to leave for Italy with forged passports and these passengers had spent three to four million rupees each for them.
The apprehended local passengers are usually handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for further inquiries, whilst it was rare that members of the organised syndicate preparing these forged documents were caught, he said.