Two-thirds of Sri Lankan refugees want to remain in India

Tamil refugees

A survey by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, conducted among the one-lakh-odd Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India has found that 67 per cent of those interviewed wanted to remain in India.

Only 23 per cent of the 520 families surveyed wanted to return to the island nation, while four per cent wanted to migrate to a third country where they have relations, according to the survey.

The study titled ‘Exploring Durable Solutions for Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India’ said the most preferred destinations for those who wanted to go back were Mannar and Vavuniya.

The top three priorities for these people were basic amenities and livelihood opportunities followed by safety. Although 48.2 per cent of those who wished to return said they needed assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only 12 per cent of them have approached the agency.

K.M. Parivelan, who led the study, said that this was because the UNHCR puts them on a flight home and does not provide the logistics for them to take their belongings back.

“We also met Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran who asked us to undertake a study covering the entire population of refugees. He was interested to know what skills they have so if they are repatriated they could be engaged suitably,” Mr. Parivelan said.

Around 67,000 refugees are based in 111 camps in Tamil Nadu. A majority of those who want to stay back own property and have availed of social welfare schemes of the Indian government.

The key recommendations of the study, which Mr. Parivelan said would be submitted to the Ministry of External Affairs, are that the Tamil Nadu and Union governments publish position papers spelling out their stand on the future of the refugees. The study also recommended that an information hub be set up for refugees to get complete and accurate information on their options to return, stay back or be repatriated to a third country. – The Hindu