Sri Lankan refugees at the Anaiyur camp here demanded Indian citizenship as they did not want to be addressed as refugees even after staying in India for more than two decades.

"Our children are abused in schools as refugees, when they make minor mistakes," said a young mother, eyes filling with tears.

She was among a group of refugees who interacted with the media shortly after Additional Director General of Police (Coast Security Group) C. Sylendra Babu visited the camp on Friday morning.

Awareness creation

Mr. Babu was here to create awareness among the refugees of the risks involved in their attempt to escape to Australia stealthily.

A youth S. Indiran urged the police officer to get Indian citizenship for the refugees as they wanted to continue to live in India.

"Given the situation in Sri Lanka, it was not possible to return home. I have lived here for 23 years. I have lost my parents and relatives. I cannot go back home," he said.

Similar requests were put forward to him by a few other youth also.

Mr. Indiran said that there was no one for him even to identify his family’s farmland. "We cannot identify our properties there now," he said.

A woman said that every year over 30 youth from the camp get their graduation. "But, they end up employed as painters, as they are not allowed to take any other job for want of Indian citizenship," she said.

Another youth complained that they do not have any right to buy even a motorbike.

"We are denied driving licence. Our people are lured to Australia through illegal means only because we have lost hope that we can get passports and fly to Australia for better life," he said.

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