Many Lankan refugees in Trichy want to return home

A special camp of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) held in Trichy to guide Sri Lankan refugees on repatriation to their home received a good response from the refugees with many of them expressing their desire to go back, the Times of India reported.

Earlier, the refugees were skeptical on repatriation due to uncertainty over their future, but the UNHCR came forward to allay their fears and provided them all the guidance required to clear the formalities for their repatriation.

As a part of the programme, two officials from UNHCR in Chennai conducted the two-day camp at the district collectorate on Monday. On the first day, some of the refugees expressed their willingness to be repatriated.

“A total of 16 members from nine families attended the camp. They are interested in returning to their home towns in Sri Lanka. Most of them who came today are natives of Jaffna and Vavuniya,” regional special deputy collector, S Natarasan told TOI.

The officials verified the documents to authenticate their Sri Lankan origin and their passports. UNHCR would even help them apply for passports in the Sri Lankan embassy in Chennai if they had not obtained the same.

UNHCR would also take care of the travel expenses to Sri Lanka and provide financial assistance for their survival until they are accustomed to the situation to earn on their own. “We will provide financial assistance to maintain their daily needs for at least three months in Sri Lanka,” said Natarasan.

Few more refugee families would attend the second day’s camp on Tuesday.

As far as Trichy district is concerned, the refugees have been residing in the two camps in Kottapattu and Vazhavandhankottai. At present, 1,389 refugees, including 701 males and 688 females are residing in Kottapattu while the other camp has 1,420 refugees including 725 males and 695 females.

In 2016, 20 refugees were repatriated with the help of UNHRC while two of them went back on their own from Kottapattu camp. A total of 21 refugees left for Sri Lanka with support from the UNHRC and 17 left for Sri Lanka by themselves from Vazhavandhankottai camp. In February 2017, two refugees from Kottapattu were repatriated.

The repatriation of the refugees from 112 camps in Tamil Nadu has been slowly taking place after three decades of their stay in India following the end of the ethnic war. (Colombo Gazette)