Tamil Nadu government announces a slew of benefits for Sri Lankan refugees, including measures to improve conditions in camps

Published : August 27, 2021 13:28 IST

Jacintha Lazarus (third from right), Commissioner of Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non Resident Tamils, and other officials inspecting the facilities at the Mandapam camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, on August 11. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has announced a series of welfare measures and benefits for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu, at a total cost of Rs.317 crore. The nature of scope of these measures – including upgradation of their dwelling units, a massive allocation for their welfare, and establishment of a committee to oversee their welfare – are unprecedented in the history of welfare of refugees in India. The first Sri Lankan Tamil refugees came to Tamil Nadu following the ethnic cleansing pogrom in Sri Lanka in 1983.

The scheme includes construction of 3,510 houses for Sri Lankan refugees at a cost of Rs.108 crore and repairing of 7,469 houses, at a cost of Rs.231.5 crore. Besides these steps, a financial assistance scheme for refugee students studying engineering; a hike in the monthly dole given to refugees in camps; and an overarching scheme to improve infrastructure, such as power, public conveniences and other basic facilities in the camps, costing Rs.30 crore, are among the projects in the pipeline. A committee will be set up to expedite and oversee the main concern of the refugees – to work towards granting citizenship or help in repatriation.

Chief Minister Stalin made the announcement in the Assembly on August 27, after it was earlier brought to his notice that the facilities in the camps were in a dilapidated condition. Of the 3,04,269 Sri Lankan Tamils who fled the pogrom in 1983, and the war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan forces, as many as 58,822 persons are staying in 108 camps spread across 29 districts in the State. Apart from this, 34,087 registered refugees are staying outside the camps. “This is not merely a government for Tamils here; it is a government which will protect Tamils who live across the seas too,” Stalin said.

Member of Parliament Kanimozhi, who took up their cause, tweeted: “The Sri Lankan people, who have been displaced and lost their livelihood, their country and their future and the future of their children did not even have basic facilities at the camps they were allotted.” She thanked the Chief Minister for announcing schemes that will help the refugees lead dignified lives.