12 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu, India, arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary repatriation program.
Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D. M. Swaminathan had a discussion with the UNHCR and facilitated the process and increased the baggage allowance per person with assistance of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development, Sri Lankan Air Lines and Mihin Lanka.
Secretary, Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs V. Sivagnanasothy confirmed that of the 12 refugee returnees, six are male and six female. These refugee returnees will move back to Trincomalee, Jaffna and Mannar.
The UNHCR provides free air tickets, a reintegration allowance of US$ 75 per person, a transport allowance of US$ 19 per person and a monitory non-food grant of US$ 75 per family. According to Sivagnanasothy, since 2011, 4,629 refugees (1,673 Families) have already returned to Sri Lanka. Over 64,000 are stationed in 109 welfare camps in India, he said. Totally, over 100,000 refugees are currently in India. Minister Swaminathan put up a Cabinet paper seeking financial support to provide livelihood assistance to the refugee returnees which is now being referred to the national planning authorities to consider with a comprehensive project proposal.
Further, the provision of dry rations has been already approved for six months. The REPPIA has been instructed by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs to provide compensation for those who have lost their houses and suffered loss of lives of kith and kin and for injuries. Secretary Sivagnansothy said that the refugees who lost their houses will be provided with houses under the 65,000 housing program of the Ministry. The Government of Sri Lanka has initiated action to encourage the voluntary refugee returnee program on a phased out basis and the current trend of increased refugee returnees is a sign of reconciliation and moving towards permanent peace, said the Ministry secretary.