(PTI)-A ferry service commenced recently between Sri Lanka and India for the first time in decades is set to boost the return of Sri Lankan refugees from their camps in south India back to their bases, a UN High Commissioner of Refugees report has said.
"The number of refugees arriving back home in Sri Lanka is rising slowly and could increase further over the next half year with the recent launch of the Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service," said Michael Zwack, UNHCR''s Representative in Sri Lanka.
The Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service began in mid June after more than 20 years gap and the officials said it was expected to invigorate tourism and commercial activity between the two countries. Middle level Indian traders especially in the textile business were likely to be the direct beneficiaries of the service.
"There were said to be some 141,000 of them (Sri Lankan refugees) around the world, the majority in Tamil Nadu," the UNHCR report said.
Some 2,800 Sri Lankan refugees in India and beyond have expressed their desire to return home, it said.
There had been a massive exodus of Sri Lankan refugees, mostly Tamils, to India and other destinations since the escalation of the conflict between LTTE and the government forces in the mid 1980s.
Since the end of last Elam war in 2009, the work in resettling the displaced and the returning refugees have been hampered by the slow progress in de-mining the areas. Both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military had laid thousands of anti-personnel mines in conflict areas during fighting.
UNHCR carries out regular monitoring in villages and seeks to ensure that returnees receive mine risk education and are included on food ration lists.
The agency refers people with special needs such as the disabled and the elderly to specialized institutions. It also provides them counselling towards the relevant government authority or other organizations that provide assistance, UNHCR said in its report.