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Eelam Tamil family seek refugee in Tamil Nadu amidst economic crisis

A family of four Eelam Tamils including two children from the same family reached Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu after undertaking a journey by boat from Mannar to seek refuge in Tamil Nadu. 

Muruganandan, was accompanied by his wife Rita Mary, and their two children from Thiruketheeswaram Mannar District, the four of them had undertaken a journey by boat until they were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard from Mandapam, in Ramanathapuram.

Muruganandan had told officials who boarded them onto a hovercraft vessel and taken to Dhanushkodi that he was barely able to afford a single meal and could not find work after the economic crisis. He also mentioned that they were no longer able to bring up their children given their economic hardships. 

Many Eelam Tamils have fled Sri Lanka for decades over human rights abuses and violence by Sri Lanka's security forces but in recent years, many have cited the economic crisis as their reason for fleeing. 

Due to the economic crisis, the number of Eelam Tamils who’ve arrived in Tamil Nadu seeking refugee has increased to 297. The World Bank estimates that nearly 500,000 people have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis.  Those already classified as poor in Sri Lanka have seen a 65% increase in their cost of living. 

Despite this the military continues to occupy vast swathes of Tamil land across the North-East, displacing Tamils and thus denying them a source of income from arable land. Fourteen of Sri Lanka’s army divisions are based in the Northern province alone. These divisions are accused of committing war crimes in the final stages of the armed conflict and now run military-owned businesses which exacerbate the existing economic problems.

A report released by the South Asian Centre for Legal Studies (SACLS) detailed the ‘deepening consequences’ of the continuous military occupation of civilian spaces which curtail local economic development, particularly in the North-East.

The report stated;

“The lack of information regarding the legal and administrative frameworks within which the military engages in businesses; potential unfair competition and market distortion by the military's engagement in business resulting in the crowding out of private investors; lack of oversight over military businesses by the government, causing several rule of law implications regarding transparency and accountability; social and economic consequences particular to the North and East as a result of the military occupying an economic vacuum."

Tens of thousands of Eelam refugees remain in camps in Tamil Nadu, often in difficult conditions and without any support. Many refugees from Eelam fled Sri Lankan state oppression and have been living in Tamil Nadu for about three decades. Despite this the Indian government refuses to grant them citizenship.


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