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Tamil Nadu seeks Rameswaram-Talaimannar ferry service to repatriate refugees

The Tamil Nadu government is pushing New Delhi to discuss the restarting of a ferry service between India and Sri Lanka in order to facilitate the repatriation of refugees, the Times of India reported on Wednesday. 

A meeting that was due to be held between Tamil Nadu officials and the Ministry of External Affairs was cancelled due to "political turmoil", an official told TOI. 

"Now a letter and a report have been submitted to the Centre to aid structured resettlement of refugees who want to return," the official said. 

However, he said Tamil Nadu would want to discuss the precise route with New Delhi - Tuticorin to Colombo, or Rameswaram to Talaimannar as most of the refugees are from the North-East. 

The ferry service between Rameswaram and Talaimannar was suspended in 1983. 

According to the TOI, the International Organisation for Migration has welcomed the move. 

"We are hoping it will set a trend. Once the first batch leaves, more are likely to follow. The frequency will be lesser to save cost," an official told the paper. 

Highlighting the unsuccessful effort to repatriate refugees via a ferry service between Tuticorin and colombo in 2011, the official said, "the timing wasn't right in 2011". 

"It was too close to the end of the war. People were still suspicious."