SL starts working on voluntary repatriation

He works with other agencies on the collection of preliminary data: Deputy High Commissioner

Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commission has started work on the voluntary repatriation of Sri Lankan nationals living in rehabilitation camps in Tamil Nadu, according to Deputy High Commissioner D. Venkateshwaran.

The diplomat, who took office in April this year, said The Hindu Friday that the Deputy High Commissioner, in collaboration with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), relevant departments of Tamil Nadu, including the Office of the Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils , and non-governmental organizations, has also been working on collecting preliminary data for repatriation. The Deputy High Commission had offered an “appropriate” ferry service or passenger air service, accommodating the cargo in containers, for repatriation.

According to the Tamil Nadu government document, 58,822 people were residing in 108 rehabilitation camps as of July 31. In addition, 34,087 refugees were living outside the camps.

The Deputy High Commissioner said that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, his office issued 1,500 to 2,000 special passports for the repatriation of refugees annually. About 1,000 to 1,500 Sri Lankans have returned to Sri Lanka each year voluntarily with UNHCR assistance or on their own. The voluntary repatriation process was suspended in March 2020 due to restrictions on international travel.

As for the issuance of consular birth certificates, Mr. Venkateshwaran recalled that special camps were held every week until March 2020. The registration of consular births had “drastically decreased” due to the pandemic. “However, this mission is constantly providing its uninterrupted consular services” in the midst of the lockdown, he said, hoping for the resumption of special camps soon. The Deputy High Commission planned to erase all pending requests for consular birth certificates by December.

As for the deepening of cultural ties. He said the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry will soon release details of the development of the Ramayana Trail and Murugan Trail, in addition to the Panchalinga Shiva Temple Trail, covering five sites. It had been proposed to facilitate the arrival of more tourists from Sri Lanka to places of religious importance. The Mission planned to organize cultural events in southern India to promote cultural relations.

Expressing Sri Lanka’s gratitude to the Indian government for various aids provided during the pandemic, he said he had met with heads of several states in southern India to “improve bilateral relations”.

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