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19 Sri Lankan refugees land at Dhanushkodi as crisis worsens

After spending several years at the refugee camp in Mandapam, Ramanathapuram district, Kodeeswaran’s family had returned to Sri Lanka in 1996, half-a-decade before he was born. They stayed put there even during the worst phase of the war between rebels and government forces a decade ago.

19 Sri Lankan refugees land at Dhanushkodi as crisis worsens
Refugees from Sri Lanka at the Dhanushkodi shore on Sunday morning

MADURAI: But on Sunday, the 21-year-old was back at the camp with his wife who is three months pregnant, hoping to escape the misery they have been facing in the recent months.

Kodeeswaran and Kasthuri were among the 19 more people who landed at Dhanushkodi in the early hours of Sunday after fleeing Sri Lanka, where the economic crisis is worsening each passing day.

The group, which includes seven women and five children, belong to five families, sources said. All of them have been taken to Mandapam camp.

“People in Sri Lanka had food even at times of war. But now, people are starving and do not know how they would survive,” he said, adding that they have to shell out Rs 200 for a packet of bread and Rs 90 for a small biscuit packet.

1 kg rice costs Rs 250 in Lanka, says refugee

Explaining the struggle for survival that forced them to come over to Tamil Nadu as refugees, Suseekala, a 37-year-old from Selvapuram in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka, said a kilogram of rice now costs Rs 250, making it unaffordable to the majority of the people.

The prices of all essential commodities like milk, sugar, dhal, etc. have been rising every day, said Suseekala, who reached here with her husband Guganeswaran, a lathe worker who was rendered jobless and their two boys.

The family was among the nine people on the boat who were dropped in hip-deep water off Dhanushkodi coast around 2 am on Sunday.

Sudha, another refugee who came over with her husband and two children, said they were finding it difficult to find any livelihood there in Sri Lanka. Finally, they scraped together Rs 25,000 per person to pay the boat owner to clandestinely drop them near Tamil Nadu.

The latest influx on Sunday came after a brief lull. So far, 39 refugees have landed near the Tamil Nadu coast and all of them have been taken to the Mandapam camp.

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J Praveen Paul Joseph
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