CHENNAI: Nine Sri Lankan inmates of Poonamallee special refugee camp went on a hunger strike on Tuesday demanding immediate release from the camp.
Talking to Express, an inmate said eight of them have been languishing in the camp for 11 months after they were transferred from Chengalpattu camp on March 2010 following a brawl with policemen in which many were injured during a lathicharge. They were later granted bail and shifted to Poonamallee camp.
Another Sri Lankan refugee who was arrested recently and has spent more than six months in the prison joins them.
“The camp authorities have informed us that the inmates are going on hunger strike today. All the inmates haven’t cooked their food today,” an official said.
This is the fourth hunger strike by the eight inmates, (third in Chengalpattu and first in Poonamallee) who were shifted from Chengalpattu to Poonamallee special camp in March 2010.
“The war has finished. We have families in open camps. We have sent numerous petitions to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to release us from the camp and send us to open camp. But till now no action has been taken to free all of us,” said a refugee.
Muthu, another refugee who was also transferred from the Chengalpattu camp, was worried about his family in Sri Lanka.
“I last came in contact with them in Chengalpet camp. They were at Vavuniya camp. Now I don’t know where they are,” the father of two children says.
However, most of the refugees are still afraid of going back to Sri Lanka after the horrors of alleged post-war extermination reported by the media.
Interestingly, the hunger strike by the refugees comes in the wake of a similar five-day protest in Chengalpattu by 19 refugees which came to an end on Tuesday noon after authorities assured them that 15 of the inmates will be released by February 28.
“If they don’t release us by February 28, we will go on strike from March,” says a refugee from Chengalpattu.
The protest by 19 of the total 27 Sri Lankans lodged in the camp started on January 26 after a few Nigerians, lodged in the same camp, were sent back by the authorities to their native country.