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The Forgotten People: On Sri Lankan Refugees

on 2017/11/15 11:58:55 ( 1308 reads )


INDIA, November 14, 2017 (The Hindu by T. Ramakrishnan): India and Sri Lanka should take up repatriation of Tamil refugees at the earliest. In recent months, the focus of the media has been on the Rohingya refugees in India. But the plight of Sri Lankan refugees, who have been here for nearly 35 years, appears to have gone out of the public consciousness. The pathetic condition of shelters, restrictions on movement, and limited scope of livelihood opportunities affect the community of one hundred thousand-odd Sri Lankan refugees, who have been living in Tamil Nadu ever since the anti-Tamil pogrom in Sri Lanka in July 1983. Besides, statelessness is a major problem for a section of refugees whose roots are from central parts of Sri Lanka, generally called hill country. [These tea plantation workers came from India in the 19th century under the British and were never granted Sri Lanka citizenship, yet are not Indian citizens either.]

The refugees also suffer from social and psychological problems as reports of suicides, school dropouts and child marriage show. Many middle-aged refugees worry about their children's future, given the fact that 40% of camp refugees are below 18 years. As 28,500 refugees are said to be stateless, the Sri Lankan government, in 2003 and 2009, amended its laws to enable easier repatriation. Tamil political parties on the other side of the Palk Strait would love the refugees to return so that the strength of elected representatives from the Tamil-majority Northern Province will go up in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Yet, the voluntary reverse flow of refugees has happened only incrementally.

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