COLOMBO: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU) have undertaken to help the Sri Lankan government repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu and resettle them in the Island Nation, the Lankan Ministry of Resettlement has said.
Assurance of aid was given to the Lankan Minister for Resettlement, D M Swaminathan, when he met local representatives Gulam Abbas and Igor Ivancic of the UNHCR, and Jaime Royo-Olid and Libuse Soukupova of the EU, here last week, a Ministry statement said.
The EU has already built 23,000 houses in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces and an additional 3,000 houses are to be built. The EU has set aside Euro 14 million for this project in 2015. There are still 26,056 internally displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Modi, Sirisena Keen
Repatriation of the refugees from India and the resettlement of the existing internally displaced persons in Lanka will both be taken up ‘on a priority basis’, as part of the Maithripala Sirisena government’s 100-day program, the Resettlement Ministry said. The programme to repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees from Tamil Nadu was discussed when Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on January 19. Last week, the Lankan cabinet issued a statement saying the matter will be discussed during Modi’s talks with Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he visits Colombo in mid-March. Both governments have assured that repatriation will be voluntary.
Claim Land Rights
“The refugees have to go back to reclaim their lost rights in Sri Lanka. Repatriation is essentially a Mannai Meetpom (Recover our Land) movement,” explained S C Chandrahasan of the Chennai-based Organization for Elangai Refugees’ Rehabilitation (OfERR).