Bernardo Brown[i] in email to Roberts, 24 July 2012
Several things come to mind reading these articles. [ii]
One of them is that a visit to Negombo can easily reveal the long history of people smuggling that exists in the region and the importance of the “migratory triangulation” that exists here. I know that at least for the last decade Pakistanis and Afghanis have flown to Katunayake to be promptly taken to safe houses in the Negombo area where they waited for their opportunity to be smuggled to Europe.
During the tenure of Festus Perera as Minister of Fisheries – when multi-day fishing trawlers were introduced to the region – locals have had the technological means to venture far beyond the coastal waters of Sri Lanka to engage in different kinds of smuggling. This means that since the early 1980s large trawlers may have been used for other purposes.
I have not been working with Tamil youths in post-conflict areas, but it seems that ethnic tensions that still exist are an additional incentive for most young people who are already unemployed and only foresee a bleak economic future in Sri Lanka. From what I know, Sinhalese speaking Catholics in the western coast of Sri Lanka are as eager to leave and willing to take risks to get out of the country as the Tamils described in these articles.
It is important to note also that the majority of both Sinhalese and Tamil speaking fishermen are Catholics who were generally not involved with the LTTE. In fact, the Kokilai massacre of 1984, saw the killing of 11 fishermen from Negombo (I think they were all from the village of Duwa). As a consequence of this, many of these seasonal migrants decided not to travel anymore to the Northeast or to Mannar during the monsoon seasons and found in transnational migration to Italy a good alternative.
Just a couple of thoughts…
Hope all is well with you.
Kind regards from New York,
[i] Brown is a postgrad student from Cornell University who did his field work in the Negombo region circa 2009/10 (check). Note that the little town of Wennapuwa is known as “little Italy.”