Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at the rehabilitation camp at Melmonavoor here are willing to go back only if they are assured of safe and peaceful living conditions in the island-nation. An interview that this correspondent had with a cross-section of the refugees in the camp (functioning since 1990) revealed that despite a change in the government in Sri Lanka, they did not think that the situation was not conducive for them to return.
“Let the Government of India take steps to ensure that the Sri Lankan government has created safe and peaceful living conditions for the Tamils before thinking of sending us back”, said a woman resident of the camp. Selvarathinam, president of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees Camp Residents Association, said when the Government of India sought a list of those willing to return, only 10 out of over 300 families residing in the camp had expressed their desire to go back, that too, after a year.
A woman resident of the camp said that the new government should first be persuaded to release the Tamils languishing in Sri Lankan jails. The Sinhalese, who have been settled in the Tamil areas, should be told to go back to their original places of residence before sending back the refugees from India.A youngster, who is running an entertainment television channel in Vellore, said another problem which the educated youth would face on going back to Sri Lanka was that they were not sure of getting jobs.
Secondly, they do not know whether the degrees or diplomas which they have obtained in educational institutions in Tamil Nadu would be accepted in their country. “Most importantly, we want the United Nations Commission for Refugees to assure us that we will be safe if we go back to Sri Lanka,” he said. Most of the refugees, interviewed by this correspondent, said that the feedback they got from their relatives in Sri Lanka was that the living conditions for Tamils there had not improved after the change in the government. “The Tamils there still live in constant fear owing to the continued Sri Lankan Army presence in the Tamil areas. But here, even if our children do not get lucrative jobs, we are living peacefully,” said an old woman resident (The Hindu).