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First Batch of 3,000 Tamil Refugees to Return to Sri Lanka in Next Few Months, Says Foreign Minister

There are around 90,000 Tamil refugees in India and sources said Sri Lanka could take back as many as 60,000.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:January 10, 2020, 6:57 PM IST
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First Batch of 3,000 Tamil Refugees to Return to Sri Lanka in Next Few Months, Says Foreign Minister
External affairs minister S Jaishankar with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena on Thursday.

New Delhi: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Friday said 3,000 Tamil refugees in India have volunteered to go back to the island nation and their return should happen in the next few months.

The process of repatriation, he told News18, was discussed with external affairs minister S Jaishankar during their meeting on Thursday. The first batch has been identified, he said, but refused to give a timeline for the return. "Name and numbers have to be scrutinised. That will be done very fast by Sri Lanka," he said.

There are around 90,000 Tamil refugees in India. Sources have said Sri Lanka could take back as many as 60,000. The other 30,000 now have families or work in India and some have also been naturalised so may not head back to Sri Lanka.

As for the confidence building efforts before repatriation, the minister said that there was an established organisation led by Chandra Hasan in Jaffna that has been closely working with refugees and are facilitating efforts on the ground and also monitoring the process.

As for when the other refugees would make their way back, he said, "these are citizens who are returning and the process of reconciliation is also an important matter in which India has been giving us support to expedite so the numbers will be moving as per the agreement and understanding."

The issue of fishermen and confiscated boats was also taken up at the meeting. The minister reiterated what Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had promised in his visit to India about releasing all confiscated boats.

"Returning boats is a clear decision taken by President. They will be released," he said, but added that Sri Lanka has communicated to India time and again that deep sea trawling remains a problem area. "So alternative training and different income patterns also need to be given to them (fishermen) who often cross the line due to the chase."

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