COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government on Monday formed a committee to facilitate the repatriation of thousands of Sri Lankans refugees who have been living in Tamil Nadu after fleeing their country following the outbreak of a brutal civil war.
According to official figures, there are more than 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu, of which some 68,000 are housed in over 100 government-run camps.
The committee appointed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe's Office is headed by Chandima Wickramasinghe, Additional Secretary to the President, and the other members are the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a senior official of the Registrar General's Department and a senior official of the Ministry of Justice.
This decision was reached during the discussion held at the President's Office under the chairmanship of the President's Secretary Saman Ekanayake at the request of the Organization for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OFERR), to bring back the Sri Lankans who have gone to India as refugees due to the war, newsfirst.lk website reported.
It was stated that about 58,000 Sri Lankans are currently residing in Tamil Nadu as refugees and only 3,800 of them are ready to return to Sri Lanka, it said.
The Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioner's Office in Chennai is coordinating the efforts, it added.
In the bitterly-fought conflict that started in 1983, the island nation's military ended the brutal war by killing the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for an independent state for Tamils in the country's north and east.
Then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 18, 2009 declared the end of a 26-year war in which over 1,00,000 people were killed and millions of Sri Lankans, mainly minority Tamils, displaced as refugees inside the country and abroad.
A United Nations report has said nearly 40,000 Tamils were killed in the final months of the war. The Sri Lankan government has failed to probe the human rights abuses during the war.
According to the government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.
The Tamils alleged that thousands were massacred during the final stages of the war that ended in 2009 when the government forces killed LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures.
The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it was a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE's control.