The Government has taken steps to provide free passports to Lankan refugees living in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to assist them to repatriate with minimum costs.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Defence, In charge of Immigration and emigration has authorized to waive the Rs.4,400 fee to obtain a Sri Lankan passport for refugees in Tamil Nadu.
This follows a proposal to the President from the Director General of Immigration to provide this facility to enable the large number of Sri Lankan Tamils living in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu to return to their homes in Sri Lanka.
According to the Indian Government sources, about 69,000 Sri Lankan refugees were living in 112 camps in Tamil Nadu, while some refugees have also settled in their own homes. More than 90,000 Sri Lankan Tamils, predominantly from the North and East of the country, fled to Tamil Nadu during the country’s three-decade war with the separatist terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE). Since the Government’s victory over the LTTE in 2009 and the gradual de-mining of the former LTTE held territory, Sri Lanka has concentrated on a massive resettlement and development drive.
Under Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Act, the refugees are required to have a valid passport to land in Sri Lanka.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) there has been a steady return of Lankan refugees, mainly from India, back into their country since the end of the war two-and-a-half years ago.