A total of 1,986 Sri Lankans put up in various refugee camps in Tamil Nadu have returned to the island nation this year and the numbers are expected to go up in the next three months, Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner to India Vadivel Krishnamoorthy has said.
Around 4,000 more are ready to make the trip home and are waiting for the ferry service to resume as they would want to take their belongings and household articles along, he told the Times of India (TOI).
In 2016, under the voluntary repatriation progamme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 852 refugees from various camps across the state returned to Sri Lanka in 2016.
A special outreach programme is being conducted at the Sri Lankan mission to issue birth certificates to newborns in India, he said, adding that they had issued 2,381 birth certificates this year till Tuesday.
A drive is being conducted on Wednesday where 60 families from Madurai will visit the mission in Chennai to obtain birth certificates for their children. “Every Wednesday our staff assist the refugees in filling up forms and issuing birth certificates to their children,” said Krishnamoorthy.
The 1,986 refugees who have returned home this year under the UNHCR programme were from camps in Trichy, Sivaganga, Salem, Pudukottai, Namakkal, Karur, Erode, Dindigul and Coimbatore, Krishnamoorthy said. “The number of those returning to Sri Lanka is increasing. It is a voluntary programme. Our aim is to see that all the newborns are documented and do not remain stateless,” he said.
Statistics available with the state government said that as on July 1, 2016, 63,649 refugees (19,388 families) were residing in 108 camps in Tamil Nadu and another 36,651 refugees were living outside the camps. (Colombo Gazette)