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Eelam Tamil refugees denied citizenship by India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill

Despite having lived in the country for decades, Eelam Tamils residing in India have been denied citizenship status by the new Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by parliament last week.

Hundreds of thousands of Eelam Tamils remain refugees in India despite residing in the country for over three decades. The citizenship bill’s amendment gives Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh yet excludes Eelam Tamils, in the midst of a number of other refugees. 

Nataraja Saravanan, a Tamil Refugee in India described his plight to The Quint.

“For thirty years, I have been given documents concessions and doles. How then can I be an illegal immigrant? This is what is surprising. We thought we were only refugees but were told that as illegal immigrants we cannot demand the right to citizenship, in a judgment by the Madurai High Court in June 2018. That’s when we came to know we were illegal immigrants. Now, the same sentiment is echoed in Parliament, through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill”. 

There are estimates that over 60,000 Eelam Tamils reside in 106 camps in India. 25,000 children who were born within these camps remain without citizenship, as the Indian government does not certify their marriages or births. 

As refugees, they are not granted the same freedoms as Indian citizens, with requirements to sign in and out of the camps they reside in whenever they leave. Laws also retract the economic growth of the community, with a handicap placed on individuals from owning properties worth more than Rs 20,000.

As the controversy over the bill continues, the outlook remains bleak for the ins of thousands of Eelam Tamils who continue to reside in India.

See more from The Quint here.