Sri Lanka to close all international borders on smuggling crackdown

Written by By Staff Writer

Taking the seas by sail, helicopter or catamaran may become a more affordable option for Sri Lankans.

The island nation’s government announced it will close all its foreign border crossings until May 7 in what it calls an effort to reduce smuggling and reduce the cost of transactions in the country.

“There is a massive smuggling racket in our country. We have been fighting it. But lately, it became unmanageable,” said Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera , according to The Hindu newspaper.

Abandoned boats and abandoned families are an unwelcome sight at Ratnapura harbour in Sri Lanka. Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

A decade-long civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan military ended in 2009 and left thousands dead and millions displaced. The government forcibly displaced civilians in the country, many of whom remain displaced in camps in the north and east of the country.

The government now hopes the change in policy to make travel more costly and to re-open all foreign borders will cut down on the numbers of migrants crossing to neighboring countries, The Hindu reported.

Astonishingly, Sri Lanka’s Darusman International Airport is by far the busiest in South Asia — handling nearly 4 million passengers last year alone.

“With more travelers coming in, you can expect to see a change in cargo coming in and most of the cargo coming in by sea,” said England’s Charles Dickens M.S., an expert on transport in the region.

After imposing strict controls on travel throughout Europe during the past few years, many countries have loosened restrictions on travel. While some analysts say restrictions may improve security at borders, restrictions on movement have played an integral role in reducing illegal migration.

Tanzania has announced it will open five new tourism boards in 2019, hoping to boost activity in the country’s many game parks. In August 2018, the board aimed at increasing tourism from 65,000 visitors to 200,000 by 2020.

Britain’s immigration minister stated in November 2018 that the country aims to boost tourism by about 40% by 2020. Travellers are expected to create an estimated 170,000 jobs in the private sector, according to Government figures.

“While we are not permitting unauthorized people to enter the country, we have decided to allow greater travel to alleviate the pressure on ports of embarkation,” the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued in early January.

United Arab Emirates had tightened immigration policies in October 2018 in an effort to reduce the number of migrant laborers crossing the border from Somalia and Ethiopia.

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