Sri Lankan Refugees in India

General November 3, 2006

The war in Sri Lanka has given way to many violations of human rights and exploitation of lives. Many individuals from the North and East of Sri Lanka consisting of the minority Tamils have been internally displaced with many others fleeing to India to protect their lives. More than 15,000 individuals have gone to India as refugees, with more than 200,000 individuals being internally displaced since April. According to the report given by UNHCR, the number of internally displaced persons has risen to 239,997.

The war has created a shortage of supplies going to Jaffna. There are many internally displaced people living in the Jaffna peninsula. Though ship loads of supplies were sent to Jaffna, there seems to be a shortage of food and the prices of the food have increased to an unaffordable price. The scarcity and shortage of food has increased to such an alarming rate that the people have even started eating boiled mangoes.

Many Sri Lankans in the war torn area seem to prefer to move to India for safety rather than risk their lives in Sri Lanka. Many people from the North and East of Sri Lanka have gone by boat to India seeking refuge. The departure point in Sri Lanka is in Thalai Mannar. The price they have to pay in order to go by boat varies, with the people having to pay sometimes Rs 10,000 per adult and Rs 5000 for a child.

People who have not been able to afford such money have sold their belongings, jewellery and whatever property they owned. This is a very pathetic situation for them since they will not have anything when they come back after the war is over. In most instances the items they have sold has been undervalued. Many other internally displaced persons have been told to return to their villages by government officials. If the people decide not to, the government officials threatened that their water supply would be cut.

Many of the people fleeing to India have been those who have been displaced before and who are very low on the financial ladder. Violation of the rights of young girls and even young mothers has been a well known practice being practiced by the Sri Lankan Army. Conducting security checks late at night and inspecting the knees and elbows of young women has increased the fear among the people. Many sexual crimes have been committed by the Sri Lankan Army and which has been the violation of human rights of the highest degree.

The government of India and the Tamil Nadu State government have provided immense support to the refugees arriving in India by providing their basic and essential needs. As for those who are still staying in their home town they are unable to do their work and many of the people who are badly affected are the people who are fishermen. Since the Sri Lankan Navy has posed a restriction on the fishermen they are unable to support themselves and are left in a desperate situation.

A good example of this kind of a story is about an individual called “Thambi”. He has a young family and everyday he had to pass army check points to go for work as he lives in the `uncleared’ area. He is from Murunkkan, Mannar. He says they had to pay Rs 52 for one Litre of Kerosene and even if they had caught fish it was difficult to sell fish because the restrictions imposed on them made it difficult. Basically the security situation made it difficult for them to transport the fish to areas where they could sell it. . His parents and other members of his family lived in the island of Mannar for awhile but had finally left for India. They had borrowed clay from the wider community and built a small house for their family


Another story is that of Rasa Amma. Rasa Amma is 33 years old and she has 4 children. They are from the fishing community in Vaddukkodai in Jaffna. She stated that due to the present ongoing conflict they had faced a lot of difficulties. She stated that if the government forces had been attacked with a claymore mine explosion it would only be the community that would be attacked. She also stated that many people from her area had died due to the war and life has suddenly become insecure for them. They had travelled to Vavuniya and then paid Rs24,000 to come to India. The boatmen had left them stranded on a sand dune and the Indian Navy had rescued them and brought them to safety.

Jaya is an orphan and is 22 years old. She comes from Trincomalee. She studied with the help of a Sinhalese family and got married. The area where she lived in was near an army camp. The security checking had intensified and many of the newly wed couples had left this area. They were afraid of the white van that had comes and carries out abductions in that area. She stated that nobody was safe from the men who came in these vans.

Such is the plight of those people who would prefer to go to an alien land to save their lives rather than stay in their own motherland. The Geneva talks in progress have not brought about any positive results regarding the future of Sri Lanka. Both the sides are experiencing great losses, losses of innocent lives due to this ethnic conflict. Currently many Sri Lankan refugees have been given the Mandapam camp as a place to stay. Though the government of Tamil Nadu has been very efficient in providing essential facilities to the refugees, it is the trauma that the people have gone through that is making the people feel insecure and afraid. This ethnic conflict is crippling the nation into a greater disaster, which could result with the Lankans having no homeland in the future. Therefore an immediate solution to war has to be made; if not the beautiful island paradise will be no more but just a paradigm of the past.