The Investigation Unit of the Immigration and Emigration Department has launched islanwide raids to apprehend foreigners who had overstayed their visa. Accordingly, the Unit has arrested 17 foreigners during last week whose visas had lapsed.
These arrests include five South Asians who had been working in jewellery shops and hotels in the Colombo city and 12 others who had been working in a factory site in Horana. All those arrested had come to the country on tourist visas, Assistant Controller for Investigations Parakrama Fernando said.
The arrested have been detained at the Mirihana detention centre pending further investigations. Steps are to be taken to deport the arrested and blacklist them preventing them from entering the country again. In addition legal advice is sought with regards to further penalties, sources said.
According to Immigration sources there are around 4000 illegal immigrant workers in Sri Lanka. The majority of this immigrant population is from South Asian and East Asian countries. Most of these immigrants work in hotels, Jewellery shops and construction sites. Some are involved in drug trafficking, human smuggling, prostitution and other illegal activities.
The problem has become a menace not only because these immigrants involve themselves in illegal activities but also because they deprive the Sri Lankans viable job opportunities, immigration sources said. The Controller for Immigration investigations has proposed tough action for the offenders and change of laws to prevent such abuse of visas.
This would act as a deterrent to offenders in the future, Fernando said.
The latest arrests were made on the instructions of the Chief Controller and on the direction of Assistant Controller. The following officers participated in the raids Y.C.A.K. Premasinghe, S.M. Amirdeen, D.P. Aluthge, J.S. Ambegoda, D.S. Dehiwatte, and W.T.L. Wickremesinghe.