Sri Lanka family takes fateful boat trip to Australia

The last time Rajakumari Sri Kulasingham received a phone call from her daughter, Rajeeva, was May 22, 2013. She told her mother that she, her husband, and their two children, were headed to eastern Sri Lanka to board a smuggler’s boat.

Rajeeva had lived through years of conflict between the Tamil Tigers, an armed group, and the Sri Lankan government. When the fighting ended in 2009, difficulties remained, and Rajeeva and her husband thought of leaving Sri Lanka so their children could have access to opportunities they didn’t have at home.

The smuggler’s boat was supposed to take the family to Southeast Asia, where they would find another boat to ferry them to the islands of northern Australia, where they planned to seek asylum. But after that unfortunate day in 2013, Rajakumari never heard from Rajeeva or her family again.

In the family’s home in Kilinochi, Sri Lanka, we meet Rajakumari and her husband, Ganesh, who are unable to cope with the disappearance of their daughter and her entire family. We also meet Rajeeva’s sister, Vaishika, who empathizes with the desire to escape the difficulties facing young families in Sri Lanka.

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Directed and filmed by
Matthew Cassel

Edited by
Olivia Dehez

Produced by
Ariel Rubin

Special thanks to
Nadiya Hameed
Sharmini Shadagopan
Anusha Nadaraja
Surani Perera
Rukshan Rajaratnam

This video was made in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross. ICRC provided funding and support for the production of this video. NBC News retained editorial control.

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