16,000 refugee children born in India stateless

refugeeAbout 16,000 children born to Sri Lankan refugees in India are stateless since they do not have Sri Lankan citizenship and enjoy a mere refugee status. This piquant situation is being raised by activists at a time when Indian and Sri Lankan governments are seriously discussing repatriation of refugees from India.

Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation (OfeRR) founder S C Chandrahasan said, “Children born in Indian camps should be registered with the Sri Lankan deputy high commission within one year of their birth with birth certificates and camp registration details. Around 24,000 children were born in various camps in the last three decades but only 8,000 have registered with the deputy high commission.”

It was essential to register the 16,000 children, some of them youths now, as other wise their repatriation to Sri Lanka would not be legal, Chandrahasan said, adding that the Indian government should take steps to ensure that they are registered.”When Chandrika Kumaratunga was Sri Lanka’s President , the deputy high commission in Chennai had a better registration process.Then, officials in the deputy high commission reached out to the people. The Indian government should raise with Sri Lanka the issue of reviving the policy adopted during Chandrika’s tenure,” Chandrahasan said.

OfeRR had organized a mass registration camp in Salem in May 2012 but it was stopped by a few pro-eelam fringe groups. Another camp planned in Erode was also not held. Currently , only five registrations happen every day. Officials have been rejecting registration on flimsy grounds, including spelling errors in the certificates.

For this, Chandrahasan said the Sri Lankan government should come up with an inclusive registration policy before taking up repatriation. He suggested that the SL government should accept affidavits filed by the father or mother of the children. OfeRR also suggested a seven-phase repatriation process in its report that has been shared with India, Sri Lanka and the Tamil Nadu government. (Times of India)

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