Tamil Nadu has more than 100,000 Sri Lankans who have been living in camps maintained by the State Government.
Many of these refugees have been living in these camps in Rameshwaram for three decades, ever since they crossed the Palk Strait in search of safety.
Eight years after the end of the war, the State continues to look after the refugees. Sri Lanka has made several attempts to bring them back. But, the refugees over these seem to be in two minds on whether to return to their motherland.
According to reports, the confusion has little to do with the security and safety concerns.
It has a lot to do with how they are going to start their lives from scratch after having been outside Sri Lanka for decades.
Some have returned. The government has in fact taken steps to provide basic facilities to returnees. But some prefer to stay where they are.
Many have families whose children are grown up, going to college or universities, and who have not stepped into Sri Lanka their entire lives.
For them, adapting to a completely new environment is very tough. These children have gotten used to the living conditions. They probably do not like it, but they know what to do to find better homes for themselves, and their parents who had lost everything when they crossed the Palk Strait.
How the government would convince these children is up to them. But there needs to be a comprehensive framework which includes the wellbeing and future of the children.
There are some who had arrived in the country with the hope of starting anew. But, they had to go back to Tamil Nadu since they could not restart their lives the way they wanted to.
It is once again the responsibility of the government should formulate a mechanism where the people could resume their lives from where they left when they fled the country.
Government visit to TN
Recently, the Ministry of Prison Reforms and Resettlement announced that a delegation would head to the State to discuss with the Tamil refugees on their concerns. This is probably the first time that a government delegation would be visiting the State in order to speak to the refugees and get their views and concerns.
Relationship with TN
Sri Lanka’s relationship with the State has not been stable after 2009. The State had virtually shunned anything to do with Sri Lanka, maybe except the refugees.
Though the Sri Lankan government mostly deals with the Central Government of India, and not with any State governments, both Governments need to ensure that they have cordial relationship if matters relating Sri Lanka needs to be addressed by the Tamil Nadu State government.
The seas between the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka have been tensed for years, firstly due to the war, and then due to alleged encroachment of the State’s fishermen into Sri Lankan waters.
Though many discussions have taken place, both parties are yet to come to a permanent and amicable solution pertaining to the issue. In the meantime however, concerns have been raised over the deterioration of Sri Lanka’s aquatic resources due to continuous encroachment and usage of banned fishing methods, such as ‘bottom trawling’.