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Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India

Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India. R. K. Radhakrishnan Senior Deputy Editor Frontline. Who is a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee?. People who live in government-run camps

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Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India

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  1. Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India R. K. Radhakrishnan Senior Deputy Editor Frontline

  2. Who is a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee? • People who live in government-run camps • Those who live outside camps, have a refugee certificate from the District Collectorate, and are registered with the nearest police station • Former Tamil militants held in special camps

  3. The context 3 lakh ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils fled the country and sought refugee in Tamil Nadu in 4 phases from 1983 Phase1: 1983-87 Phase2: From mid-1990 Phase 3: 1995-1999 Phase 4: 2006-2009 Just over 2 lakh have returned

  4. Sri Lankan Tamil Refugee Statistics 1,02,055 refugees (34,524 families) live in Tamil Nadu Of this, 64,924 (19,625 families) live in 109 refugee camps (Source: Chief Minister O. Paneerselvam’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, January 2015)

  5. Focus of this presentation Discussion restricted to Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India There are various other groups that require attention and are not included such as: - The Plantation Tamils who have been displaced/relocated/sent back to India - IDPs in Sri Lanka, including Muslim IDPs - Diaspora Sri Lankan Tamils

  6. Living a nightmare The living conditions in camps are pathetic • Most accommodation built in early to late 1980s and not repaired since then (10x10 sq. ft. rooms) • Sanitation issues • In 2009, DMK Ministers visited almost all camps to identify shortcomings • Routine seizing of illegal facilities (LPG etc)

  7. The hurriedly built dwellings - now abandoned Photos: R.K. Radhakrishnan

  8. Some British era structures, modified, have collapsed

  9. 1 of 2 well maintained buildings in Mandapam

  10. This is the second one…

  11. Rajapalayam (Vinayakapuram) Open camp

  12. A ‘camp’ PDS shop

  13. Vinayakapuram: Straight out of Northern Sri Lanka

  14. A view of the poultry farm converted to a camp

  15. A view of the Mallankinaru camp

  16. An alley in Mallankinaru

  17. Reality of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugee

  18. Observations… Refugee camps: Rural, Urban and Special. - Rural camps: No jobs, no facilities - Urban camps: Better job opportunities, better electricity and other facilities - Special camps: Literally black holes. Said to be worse than rural camps

  19. The Refugees’ Questions… • Who will guarantee our safety? • What help do we get to rebuild our lives? • Will we be given a place to live in our villages, if we go back? • Can we take back all our belongings? • Will we be forced to leave? • Can’t we be allowed to live here as Indian citizens?

  20. Summary of findings… • The fate of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees staying outside and have overstayed their initial permitted period of visit. • Their request is for a one-time pardon immediately so that they can make a decision on their future.

  21. The way forward • Why do refugees not want to go back? - Lack of a sense of security - Distrust of Sri Lanka’s political leadership - No incentive to start life again in Sri Lanka - Information void

  22. Hope…

  23. Hope…

  24. Ending the status quo One generation fled a war. The next has grown up in India in a limiting, abnormal atmosphere. The resentment of the new generation is not only against Sri Lanka. Addressing this post-war mindset among refugees requires new thinking.

  25. Ending the status quo • Remove movement restrictions on refugees • Don’t stand in the way of legitimate transit to a third country • Tamil Nadu take the lead in verifying refugee claims on land etc with Governments of India and Sri Lanka

  26. Thank You

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