The Immigration and Emigration Department will set up a special unit to monitor the activities of some tourists to Sri Lanka because several of them come here for purposes other than tourism, a senior official said yesterday.
Immigration and Emigration Chief Chulananda Perera said the decision to ask the 161 Muslim visitors, who had arrived in Sri Lanka and had overstayed their visas, to leave the country before January 31 would not be changed.
“They must leave on or before January 31 and we have no intention of extending their visas. We have unconfirmed reports that they have been engaged in various activities other than tourism and some of the allegations had religious connotations,” Mr. Perea said.
He said preliminary inquiries had revealed that similar developments involving similar groups had been reported from many other Asian countries and therefore, it was extremely necessary to take pre-emptive action.
The Immigration and Emigration Department will set up a permanent monitoring unit to keep a tab on suspicious visitors to Sri Lanka on a temporary or tourist visa and engage in unscrupulous activities on the pretext of engaging in social or religious activities.
“This will not affect genuine tourists. We do not want to spoil their stay here in any way. They will be free to enjoy their stay while in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Perera said.
Meanwhile Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana dismissed any allegations that they had jihad connections and said these allegations were the work of some other Muslim group in the country.
“They are genuine tourists and without any ulterior motives. They should have been given an opportunity to extend their visa by the Commissioner General and even advised modalities of doing so if necessary,” Mr. Moulana said.
When asked why they had overstayed their visa, Mr. Moulana said he had no idea about it and added that they should have been given an option and added that he had appraised President Mahinda Rajapaksa on this matter.