Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living outside camps in Tamil Nadu were reportedly given gifts and offered assistance in getting medical insurance and Aadhaar card by an NGO before it launched a controversial survey seeking their personal details and future plans.
The Hindu has accessed photographs of the gifts and pamphlets given by Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the NGO, to refugees a few months ago. Interestingly, the gifts had the logo of ADRA and the seal of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Government of Australia.
The volunteers who visited refugees after floods hit Chennai in December 2015 claimed to be ADRA representatives and promised financial aid from Australia. Though they took the address, contact details and other family particulars from the refugees, no relief came after their visit. It appeared that they came only to build a database on refugees in the State, a Sri Lankan refugee claimed.
The current exercise of circulating a three-page questionnaire to the refugees seeking to know their date of arrival in India, mode of transport, passport details and future plans etc has raised the apprehension among rights activists that a discreet attempt is being made to repatriate the refugees by creating an opinion that they were longing to return home.
No clarity on authorisation
Australian Deputy Consul-General to South India, Jon Bonnar, quoting the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection Service, said, “The Australian government is not, however, currently working with ADRA in India.”
According to him, the Australian government works with a range of organisations across the region to ensure people are aware of Australia’s border protection policies, the risks of travelling illegally by boat and to address the lies being spread by people smugglers.
To a specific question from The Hindu, the Australian diplomat did not elaborate on whether the NGO was authorised to use his government seal on the awareness campaign material and gifts given to refugees.
Interestingly, the publicity material distributed by ADRA to create awareness among the refugees on the dangers of travelling to Australia by boats is the same as that is available on the official website of the Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection Service.
The volunteers claimed to be ADRA representatives and promised financial aid. (The Hindu)