Eelam Tamil refugees are on their 9-consecutive day of protest against continued detention in a state-run camp situated in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu.
78 Eelam Tamils were present at the protest, calling upon Tamil Nadu’s recent elected Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin to meet their demands.
Demonstrators were seen chanting:
"Freedom , freedom is needed!" and "Stalin sir recognise us.... and issue amnesty".
According to the Indian government, over 90,000 Eelam Tamil refugees residing in India. India’s controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), which passed in 2019, excluded Eelam Tamils from securing citizenship and effectively leaving them in a state of limbo. The act was supported by all 11 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members in the Rajya Sabha and passed with 125 MPs voting in favour and 99 against.
They also carried signs which read “Isn’t being a refugee enough punishment?” and “What sins have we committed”. Tamil refugees from Eelam that are currently residing in camps across Tamil Nadu, have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown that followed, whilst continuing to face threats to their livelihood.
Speaking to journalists, they maintained that whilst Tamil Nadu has not taken any actions so far, they will continue their struggle.
A refugee told Tamil Guardian that he has been stuck in limbo since 2003 with a flurry of endless cases regarding his asylum status. "How much longer do I have to wait? We need immediate amnesty," he said. “They are just piling on cases upon cases. They are not actually pursuing the [asylum] cases. At what age will they conclude my case and release me. When will I gain justice?,” he added. Some of the refugees stressed the difficult conditions of the camps, describing it is as a "special prison". Another refugee stated he has been an asylum seeker for over 22 years and that staying in the detention camp has prevented him from helping his mother and father who are struggling with bad health, as well as his siblings who rely on him financially. "I have been caught up here for over a year and humbly request Stalin to help release me," he said.
Yesterday morning, the relatives of the detained refugees staged a protest in Jaffna pleading for their release. They held placards that read "Tamil Nadu government please release our relatives" and "Sri Lankan government please hand over our children".