Uncertainty about aid hampers return of Sri Lankan refugees

refugeeChief Minister of the Northern Province C. V. Wigneswaran has said that a large number of Tamils, displaced from Sri Lanka during the civil war and now living in India as refugees, are prepared to come back but the uncertainty about assistance is preventing them from returning.

“Those who have returned from India are saying that they have not received any aid from the government or non-governmental organisations. When those in possession of land permits visit their lands, they find that people from southern parts of the country have occupied their properties. They are also accusing the Army of supporting such occupants,” Mr. Wigneswaran said, adding that children of the refugees who were born in India were encountering difficulties in getting government jobs in Sri Lanka, despite having the necessary educational qualifications.

The Chief Minister was addressing the gathering of landless, internally-displaced persons at an event in Chithambarapuram, about 20 km from Vavuniya town, on Thursday.

The event was held to distribute temporary land permits to the IDPs, who have been allotted land within the site of the Chithambarapuram camp.

The IDPs, who lived in Tamil Nadu as refugees in the 1980s and returned to Sri Lanka in the 1990s, originally hail from the Northern and Eastern provinces, as well as the hill country region of Sri Lanka.

As many as 194 families are living in the camp for over 20 years.

Rehabilitation schemes

Demanding that proper rehabilitation schemes be formulated for refugee-returnees, he said such families should be provided livelihood assistance until they became self-employed.

In respect of those who were born in India, the Sri Lankan authorities should issue them birth certificates and national identity cards, apart from documents, recognising educational qualifications that the refugee-returnees had acquired in India.

According to the 2015-2016 annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Indian government, as many as 3,04,269 Sri Lankan refugees entered India between July 1983 and August 2012 in the wake of “ethnic violence and disturbed conditions in Sri Lanka.”

While 99,469 refugees were repatriated to Sri Lanka up to March, 1995, there was “no organised repatriation” after March 1995.

As on October 1, 2015, there were 64,368 refugees at 109 refugees’ camps in Tamil Nadu and one camp in Odisha. Besides, about 37,000 refugees were staying outside the camps, after getting themselves registered at nearby police stations, the annual report said.

Referring to the participation of the Central government’s Rehabilitation and Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan in the event, the Chief Minister, who made public his differences on the issue of 65,000 houses with the Central Minister in Jaffna a few months ago in the presence of President Maithripala Sirisena, said there was “no doubt” that the North would get help from Mr. Swaminathan till the latter was the Resettlement Minister. (The Hindu)

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