COLOMBO: Sixty-five Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in camps in Tamil Nadu since 1990, returned to their island home on Wednesday by air from Madurai and Tiruchy.
They were received at the airport by the Lankan Minister of Resettlement, D M Swaminathan. The return was facilitated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
After security checks conducted by the Lankan National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), the returnees were put on buses which would take them to their ancestral villages in the districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya and Trincomalee in the North and East of the island nation. Speaking to Express, Selvarasa, a relation of returnee Kamaladevi, said those who returned had come of their own free will.
“There has always been a yearning to come back to one’s home and hearth. While India has been kind to the refugees, they are still foreigners there. Kamaladevi is coming back to her wider family and society. Normalcy will return to her life,” Selvarasa said.
He is a resident of Keerimalai, north of Jaffna.
Asked what Kamaladevi will do for a living in Keerimalai, he said some NGOs like the Organisation for Elangai Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERR) have promised to help him. “But this is our bhoomi. We will somehow eke out a living,” he said confidently. About the call by some social activists and political parties in Tamil Nadu for granting Indian citizenship to the 1,10,000 Lankan refugees living in camps in the state, Selvarasa said that while getting Indian citizenship is a good idea, it is not practical to try for it.
“The Indian government has many problems. Citizenship for Lankan Tamil refugees will be the last in its list of priorities. At any rate India cannot solve our problems. Look at the fishermen’s issue!” he said. S Sooriyakumari of OfERR said since the end of the war in 2009, over 3,000 refugees have voluntarily returned with the help of the UNHCR.