A government delegation is expected to visit Tamil Nadu shortly to hold discussions with the State authorities and Sri Lankan refugees in the country.
The Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs informed that, along with a representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Sri Lanka, they would visit Tamil Nadu and South India to discuss and negotiate with Sri Lankan refugees.
Most recently, 16 Sri Lankan refugees returned to the Island from South India, making the total that returned during the last two weeks, 56.
“We don’t know what these refugees and their families expect. Some of them have been in India since 1983 while others have been there for over 30 years. Therefore we need to discuss with them and negotiate with them,” Media Secretary to the Ministry, Dumindu Bandara said.
The 16 who arrived have been provided mobile phone connections free of charge by the Ministry so that they could stay in touch with their family members and also the Ministry.
Addressing the question of how the process of resettling returning refugees worked and what arrangements had been made in this regard, Bandara explained that initially they would obtain information from the refugees including details about lands they owned and also collect evidence such as deeds pertaining to such.
“First, one has to see whether the said lands have been cleared or whether the military is occupying them. If they have been cleared and the military is not occupying them, we will provide monies for them to build houses on the said lands. The process is handled by the Divisional Secretariats. Elsewhere, we have invited all those who fled the country and are refugees to come back to Sri Lanka,” said Bandara.