A Group representing over one lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have come out with a document explaining durable solutions for their settlement and concerns of challenges likely to be faced during the repatriation.
Recognising repatriation is one of their solutions, the document prepared by Chennai-based Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, one of the major agencies in India for Sri Lankan refugees, said rebuilding their homeland is the most durable solution for most of the refugees other than options such as staying in Tamil Nadu and emigrating to a third country.
The document comes in the wake of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s tour, who arrived Sunday in New Delhi — his maiden foreign trip after assuming charge last month.
The document titled “Asserting the Right to Seek Durable Solutions, the Voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in the Camps of India”, was prepared after several rounds of consultations among refugees, who live in 110 camps in Tamil Nadu, over the last nine months. It suggests three durable solutions: A safe voluntary repatriation to Sri Lanka with an assurance of securing a livelihood, local integration of refugee community through an appropriate agreement allowing refugees to enjoy all basic rights available to Indian citizens, and a third country settlement for those who find no other guarantee, safety and security in Sri Lanka or India.
A set of four documents, already submitted before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, warned that any delay in political action to facilitate refugees to choose voluntarily the option of returning to Sri Lanka will aggravate the ordeal of being a refugee in Indian camps.
While discussions between India and Sri Lanka are already underway on how to handle the refugee issue, the document suggests the signing of an MoU to ensure a smooth and safe repatriation. The document also suggests a dozen recommendations to the Sri Lankan government, including the implementation of constitutional amendments to ensure the civil and political rights, and resettling the remaining Internally Displaced People , among others.
The document also says that India should take some decisions immediately such as the announcement of a generous package of assistance for refugees to return to Sri Lanka, granting work permit enabling Lankan refugees to be employed in private sector, providing educational loan for children and granting Indian citizenship to Lankan refugees married to Indian citizens.