RAMANATHAPURAM: A day after 16 Sri Lankan Tamils, who arrived in two batches, were detained for attempting to illegally enter into India, the Rameswaram judicial magistrate court on Wednesday sent three adults from the first batch of six refugees to 15 days judicial custody at Puzhal central prison near Chennai. The refugees on Tuesday said they were hit by loss of jobs and steep hike in prices of essential commodities because of the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
Later on Wednesday, the State government decided to keep the other refugees at the Mandapam camp. Jacintha Lazarus, Commissioner of Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils, said, “We have asked authorities to keep such people at Rameswaram refugee camp. Inquiry will be done at the camp itself.”
The first batch of rescued Tamils were identified as Gajendran (24), wife Mary Clary (23), their four-month-old child Nisanth, and Duri (28) and her two children Esther (9) and Moses (6). They were all residents of Jaffna and Kokupadaiyan, respectively. As per the court order, Nisanth and Moses were allowed to stay with their mothers at the prison, Duri’s nine-year-old daughter Esther has been handed over to her grandmother, an inmate of Vellore refugee camp.
The second group of 10 refugees, who arrived in Dhanushkodi on their own boats late on Tuesday, was identified as Sivarethnam (30), his wife Mery Yalini (27), their children Reshalini (8) and Sindhuja (5); and Seiyathu Mohammad Miskim Aseem (45), his wife Sivasankankathi (33), and their children Samila (17), Mujini (15), Mohamed (13) and Bhoomika (8). All of them are from Vavuniya district in Sri Lanka.
‘Government should grant refugee status’
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Poongkothai Chandrahasan, Managing Director, Serendip Be The Change Foundation, a social enterprise working with vulnerable Tamils in the northern province of Sri Lanka, said, “I think the Indian government should consider granting refugee status to these people on humanitarian grounds as the economic situation in Sri Lanka has precipitated a humanitarian crisis. With acute food shortage, underprivileged families are unable to even feed their children.”
According to T Lajapathi Roy, a Madurai advocate, “India is not part of the United Nation convention on refugees. Since there is no existing protocol, such people are being considered as illegal immigrants. During the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), India accommodated refugees on humanitarian grounds.”
Q-branch police sources said security has been beefed up along the coastline as more such refugees may arrive in Tamil Nadu in the coming days due to the crisis. Special advisory has also been issued to fishermen to inform coast guards immediately if they spot any movement of such illegal migrants in the Bay of Bengal.