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49 Tamil refugees set to return to SL

7 November 2011 02:16 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Forty-nine Sri Lankan Tamil refugees will return to their homeland by a commercial ferry that will leave Tuticorin on Tuesday, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency here has said.

Comprising 12 families, presently residing in different camps across the State, they belong to the second batch of refugees who will go back to Sri Lanka with UNHCR assistance, R. Vidjea Barathy, Associate Repatriation Officer, in the Chennai office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told The Hindu.

The Tuticorin-Colombo service, launched earlier this year, transported the first batch of 37 refugees in October. “They are being taken with their consent and they are aware of conditions in their hometowns. Most of them are in touch with their relatives there,” he said.

The refugees in this batch, residing in camps in Tuticorin, Mandapam and Virudhunagar and a few from other places, hail predominantly from Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka. There are some from northern towns such as Mannar and Jaffna. Nearly half of them had come to India in early 2006, when hostilities broke out in the island nation after a long spell of peace since 2002. Among the rest, most are residents since the 1990 exodus, sparked by the resumption of war in June.

A few of them belong to the older batches of refugees who reached the shores of Tamil Nadu after 1983.

Tamil Nadu is home to nearly one lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, with over 68,000 living in 112 camps across the State, and nearly 32,000 elsewhere. Since the military conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in May 2009, refugees have been returning to the island in varying numbers.

According to the UNHCR, 800 refugees returned to Sri Lanka in 2009, 2,054 went back in 2010, and the figure crossed 1,448 in September this year. These returns were mostly by air, with the refugee agency assisting them in the process. With the introduction of the Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service, many more have started expressing interest in using the service, as they can transport their household items along with them. A passenger is allowed to carry belonging weighing up to 150 kg on the ferry. Until recently, the UNHCR was encouraging voluntary informed repatriation only by those who hail from eastern Sri Lanka, as the situation there stabilised a few years ago.

However, in the north, there were resettlement, rehabilitation and demining issues to contend with. The situation has changed now, and more people belonging to northern towns are also among those eager to return to their homeland.

The passenger ferry is due to sail from Tuticorin on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and will reach Colombo after a 14-hour overnight journey. (Source: The Hindu)
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  • AU J Monday, 07 November 2011 03:58 AM

    With the dawn of Wednesday ,they will arrive in their
    motherland and a Big WELCOME from all communities
    awaits them. AYUBOWAN!


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