TN issues red alert in coastal areas fearing Lankan refugee influx

After 16 Sri Lankans landed at Rameswaram and Mandapam on Tuesday, the Tamil Nadu government has issued a red alert in the coastal areas to prevent a larger inflow of refugees from the island nation.

Sri Lanka is beset with an economic crisis with prices of essential commodities including milk, rice and other items going through the roof and fuel prices also shooting up. There are reports of people having to stand in queues for hours to get essential items while those without money are left stranded.

While the three adults who had reached Rameswaram on Tuesday morning were remanded to judicial custody along with two children, the ten who came at night were shifted to the Mandapam camp. This was owing to the directive from the Tamil Nadu government to consider those who arrive as refugees.

A senior state government official told IANS, “During 1980 and then 2010 during civil wars, Sri Lankan Tamils had come in large numbers to Tamil Nadu, and around 1 lakh people are still in rehabilitation camps in the state. However, according to the United Nations charter of 1951, economic crisis in a country cannot be considered to provide refugee status.”

The Tamil Nadu government has contacted the Centre on the status of those refugees who reach the state. Chief Minister M.K. Stalin while speaking in the Assembly on Thursday said that the state government would act according to the directive of the Union government.

Sources in the Tamil Nadu police said that on Friday morning some Sri Lankan Tamils had reached near Rameswaram but were spotted by fishermen and sent back to Sri Lanka. The ‘Q’ branch of the Tamil Nadu police and the Marine police are taking steps to prevent a larger inflow of refugees.

Meanwhile, fishermen at Rameswaram and Mandapam continued their protest over the arrest of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line.

Yesudas, a fishermen leader in Rameswaram, told IANS, “While Sri Lankan Tamils are trying to enter Rameswaram and Mandapam in Tamil Nadu as refugees, the Sri Lankan Navy is continuing to arrest Indian fishermen and putting them in jail. The Sri Lankans must be considerate towards our fishermen who are jailed and their boats confiscated creating a major crisis in their lives. Before giving refugee status to Tamils from Sri Lanka, this has also to be considered by our central and state governments.”




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