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Foreigners arrested for overstaying visa

Fourteen foreigners were arrested after breaching conditions in their on-arrival tourist visas, which they obtained at the port of entry in Sri Lanka. Immigration and Emigration Department, Investigation Unit Head, Assistant Controller W. Devendraraja said sleuths had arrested the illegal immigrants as they had violated Sri Lankan visa regulations.

According to him six of the immigrants, from a neighbouring South Asian country had been arrested while working at several jewellery shops in Sea Street, Pettah. Two others had been taken into custody while they were working at a leading restaurant in Colombo.

Foreigners engaged in business or employment while on tourist visa are not permitted under the Sri Lankan Immigration and Emigration Laws.

Devendraraja also added that six others also of South Asian origin had been arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport while trying to flee to an European destination armed with forged visas, which they had obtained in Sri Lanka after arriving on visit visas.

According to Devendraraja the arrested are to be deported subsequent to investigations and also blacklisted preventing their re-entry to the country.

According to authorities most of these illegal immigrants take advantage of the friendly Sri Lankan 'On Arrival' tourist visa scheme, where the country offers such visas to foreign nationals from 84 countries at the port of entry.

However, imposing restrictions have been difficult considering its impact on tourism, knowledgeable sources said. According to Devendraraja his unit, during 2009, arrested 345 visa violators out of which 253 were deported.

The Investigation Unit arrested over 400 foreigners for overstaying and engaging in illegal businesses and employment in 2006, while in 2007 and 2008 more than 400 illegal immigrants were arrested and deported after investigations.

According to authorities considering the constraints, the Immigration and Emigration Department has taken alternative avenues to detect abusers such as develop a comprehensive Data base, a detection unit at the BIA and steps to increase islandwide raids.

Those found guilty are to be deported and blacklisted.

The latest arrests were made on the instructions of Chief Controller for Immigration and Emigration P.B. Abeykoon under the directions of Assistant Controller William Devendraraja. Officers P.M.S.Bandara, K.K.Sarath De Silva and S.Yashodaran took part in the raids.



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