Kochi, Jan 15 (PTI):The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have directed their vessels deployed in the seas to search for a fishing boat suspected to have left the Kerala coast on January 12 with around 40 people aspiring for illegal migration to Australia, a Defence spokesman said here Tuesday. Also Read - Pakistan PM Imran Khan To Take Vote of Confidence From The Assembly after Facing Defeat in Senate Elections

Coast Guard aircraft are also involved in the search, but identifying the particular boat would not be an easy task as the information about the incident reached the agencies very late — 24 hours after their suspected departure from the coast, the spokesman told PTI. Also Read - Kiran Bedi Removed As Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, Telangana Governor Given Additional Charge

“As the days pass, the area of search will increase. It is a gradual, but deliberate area of search,” he said. Also Read - Liquor Likely to Become Costly in Delhi. Here's Why

Defence sources said it was not clear how effective searches could be carried out amid thousands of boats which are already in the sea for fishing.

The sources also said that the Navy and the Coast Guard cannot treat the issue as a matter of coastal security.

“It is not a coastal security issue. This is a legal issue. Illegal trafficking. It is a state issue, policing issue,” a source said.

Meanwhile, local television channels Tuesday telecast CCTV footage of the trafficked persons during their stay at a lodge in Cherai in Ernakulam district.

Agencies, including a special squad of Kerala Police and Intelligence Bureau have begun a probe into the suspected trafficking of around 40 non-Keralites in the vessel to Australia from Ernakulam district.

The trafficked people, including women and newborns, had left their resorts and home stays in Cherai and Munambam coastal areas of the district on January 12, police had said.

The probe is to find out if the people who took rooms in the resorts and home stays on January 5, providing Delhi addresses, had left the coast in the boat that day or not.

If they had done so, it would be a clear case of human trafficking to Australia because similar attempts were made a couple of years back from Munambam but in vain, they had said.

The vessel was purchased recently by two persons– one from Tamil Nadu and the other,a Keralite.Initial investigation had found that one of the addresses given was fake.

Police had said that the addresses and proof of identity recovered from the resorts and home stays revealed that the 40 people were of Tamil origin.

The probe began after locals informed the police about some abandoned bags that they had found in Cherai and Munambam areas.

In 2015, Australia had made it clear that people who attempt to travel illegally to the country by sea would not be allowed to settle there.

The country’s Consul-General to South India had further stressed that anyone who survived the journey would be intercepted and transferred to Regional Processing Centres in Nauru or Manus Island (in Papua New Guinea).

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.