Over 600 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Chennai staged a protest today demanding citizenship. They also submitted a letter to the Chief Minister’s Cell seeking citizenship and demanding that fines for overstaying in India be reduced.
Sri Lankan refugees living outside the camp have to pay up a fine for overstaying in India. While many of refugees want to return home or go visit their relatives, they say the fine amount is very high for them to pay, thenewsminute.com.
“We have to pay an amount of Indian Rs 3600 per year from the year we began staying in India and this amount is for per person. Additionally, we have to pay Rs. 13,500 for obtaining a visa. So, this has led to many families staying back in India for years now,” said G Gnanraja, secretary, Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF).
Gnanraja had come to India with his parents, leaving their hometown of Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka in 1983, during the beginning of the war. “It has been 33 years, I am living here with my family but we are not given a ration card or Aadhar card, we just have Sri Lankan refugee identity cards,” said Gnanraja.
Putting into perspective just how steep the fine for refugees is, Gnanraja explained, “If my family and I want to return back to our country, we have to pay Rs. 15 lakhs as fine and for visa. I do not have this much amount to pay.”
There are over 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in camps in Tamil Nadu with over 60,000 living in camps across the state.
While Gnanraja admits that around 20,000 want to return to Sri Lanka, the socio-political landscape in the country doesn’t inspire confidence for many others. “It is peaceful but still the Sri Lankan Tamils do not have any rights there. The Sri Lankan government still arrest Tamils and few have even died in the last few months,” he claimed. (Colombo Gazette)