By Leon Berenger
The Government will allow thousands of Sri Lankan refugees, who failed their asylum bid in Europe and elsewhere, to enter the country provided they arrive on a voluntary basis, a high ranking official with the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
He said the decision was taken at the 4th Joint Committee Meeting on Re-Admission held in Brussels on Monday, last week.
“There is an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 Lankans who have failed to obtain asylum in several European countries and they are being lined up for deportation to their country of origin.
The bulk of the Lankan refugees are ethnic Tamils mainly from the North and East who fled the country during and immediately after the separatist conflict.
The Government has decided to accept them into the country and also provide a package to help these individuals set up a fresh livelihood on their return.
The package will include housing facilities, soft loans that enable them to get involved in self-employment projects or small enterprises, education, medical care and other requirements enjoyed by the citizens of this country.
The climate of doubt, fear and suspicion that prevailed in the past does not exist anymore and therefore most of the refugees are keen to return and towards this end we are providing the necessary encouragement,” he explained.
However, he warned that persons returning involuntarily will be investigated on their arrival, where a screening process will have to be carried out. A National Coordinating Committee has been set up for this process.
He also added that representatives from the European Union (EU) were also satisfied with Colombo’s commitment towards this issue and they pledged their fullest cooperation and assistance.
Representatives from the Foreign Ministry, Immigration and Emigration and the NCC were present at the talks along with the EU representatives.