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Refugees from Sri Lanka excluded from India’s Citizenship Bill

Tamil refugees who fled Sri Lanka are to be excluded from India’s current Citizenship  Amendment Bill which was adopted by the Lok Sabha, the lower house in the country’s bicameral Parliament. 

There are approximately a hundred thousand Tamil refugees in India, with over two-thirds residing in government camps and the rest living on their own. 

India’s home minister, Rajnath Singhji, has defended the exclusion of Tamils stating that they would be protected under a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued in December 2011. This extended the protection of the Long Term Visas (LTVs) which both Sri Lankan and Myanmar refugees were eligible for. To be eligible for this protection they needed to prove that they had been “victims of oppression in their countries of origin on account of race, religion, sex, nationality, ethnic identity, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Experts are wary of this proposal as generally LTVs have not been issued to Tamil refugees, The Hindu reports.

Tamil refugee status is initially granted by the State government and later ratified by the Central government. V. Suryanarayan, former director of the Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Madras,  told reporters that Tamils only hold “refugee cards” issued at their entry into India and do not have other documentation to support their claims. This means that Sri Lankan refugees are actually regarded as illegal migrants.

Sabapathipillai Nadesalingam, an activist told the Hindu, excluding those who want to return to Sri Lanka, other Tamil refugees should be granted citizenship as they lived in Tamil Nadu for many years. If citizenship was not possible, they should be at least granted LTVs.

The bill proposed is to protect non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh citizenship status after residing in India for six years.

Read more here and here.