India’s Sri Lankan refugees need fair consideration

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Source– The post is based on the article “India’s Sri Lankan refugees need fair consideration” published in The Hindu on 16th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance– Issues related to refugees

News– The article explains the issues of Tamil refugees in India

What is the status of Tamil refugees and policy priorities of the Indian government for them?

The Ministry of Home Affairs in its 2021-2022 Annual Report states that 3,04,269 Sri Lankan refugees entered India between July 1983 and August 2012.

In India, 58,648 refugees are residing in 108 camps in Tamil Nadu while 54 are in Odisha.

Another 34,135 refugees registered with Tamil Nadu authorities reside outside camps.

They were provided relief including shelter, subsidised ration, educational assistance, medical care and cash allowances.

The objective of the Government of India remains the repatriation of refugees to Sri Lanka. 99,469 refugees were repatriated to Sri Lanka up to March 1995 and no organised repatriation was done thereafter.

What were the steps taken by the government for reconstruction in Sri Lanka after the end of the civil war?

The Government of Sri Lanka constituted the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in 2010. Its observations and recommendations on human rights, international humanitarian law, land rights, resettlement and reconciliation are noteworthy.

The Government of Sri Lanka, and development partners initiated programmes in the Northern and Eastern provinces, with objectives of resettlement,restoration of critical infrastructure, livelihoods and social services to the local population. This led to significant improvements.

The government expenditure in the Northern and Eastern Provinces during 2009-18 is reported to be $3.8 billion with another $3.4 billion by development partners.

What are the challenges faced by reconstruction efforts in current times?

There is a lack of funds for recovery needs.

The Easter Bombings in 2019 followed by COVID-19 slowed the development process. It was further compounded by the economic and political crises in 2022.

The latest World Bank Sri Lanka Update says that the poverty has more than doubled over the past few years, and poverty and vulnerability will continue to rise without appropriate support.

Who are Hill Tamils and what are their specific concerns?

Amongst the refugees, there are 30,000 Persons of Indian Origin. They are known as “Hill Tamils. They have claim to Sri Lankan citizenship via the Indo-SriLanka Agreements of 1964, 1974 and 1987 and amendments to the Grant of Citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin Act of Sri Lanka.

Lack of documents as well as a desire to continue in India di#differentiates them from other refugees. They may need special consideration.

What is the issue of repatriation of refugees?

Today, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India who wish to return voluntarily are being facilitated by the Government of Sri Lanka. Over the last year, 208 individuals have returned voluntarily, supported by the Government of India, bilateral donors and the UNHCR.

India possesses the capacity and the legal framework to find durable solutions to the refugee situation in Tamil Nadu.

Voluntary return is the most desired choice to end refugee status.

There is a significant population which may not wish to return. This is a cohort born and educated in India with no knowledge or experience of their country of origin.

A solution that provides relief from enduring refugee status is the need of the hour.

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