An academic study undertaken in refugee camps for Sri Lankan Tamils in the State makes a case for granting them Indian citizenship as a human obligation.

Although the State government has been providing them with temporary housing, free medical care, and education up to secondary level, cash doles, subsidised rice, clothing material and utensils, for their survival, employability remains a problem in the absence of social integration and they face an uncertain future without citizenship, says the study carried out by K. Arockiam, Head, Department of Human Resource Management, St. Joseph’s College.

A large number of Tamils had fled Sri Lanka during the prolonged ethnic war that claimed a devastating human toll to seek refuge in India. The refugees who migrated from the north and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka were agriculturists and fishermen. In Tamil Nadu, the employment availability was limited. They had to work as daily workers and take up income-generation activities warranting rigorous physical work. The living conditions of the 50,703 Sri Lankan Tamils belonging to over 13,000 families, living as refugees in 103 camps (as per data provided by Tamil Nadu Rehabilitation Department), make them vulnerable to ailments, Prof. Arockiam said.

Only the Kottapattu transit camp in Tiruchi district and the camp at Gummudipoondi in Tiruvallur district fulfil some of the U.N. standards. In the other camps, including the ones at Mettupatti, Bavanisagar, Lenavilakku, Chinnapallikupam, Narananammlpuram, and Sevalur, one toilet is used by 150 to 200 people on an average. They were afflicted with social and psychological problems, and their cultural lives have taken a backseat. Child marriage, suicides, and dropouts were new phenomena confronting them, the study that Prof. Arockiam undertook with support from JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) and OfERR (Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation) says.

Unlike in Canada, European countries, and Australia, India was reluctant to integrate the refugees into society. These refugees were unable to even decide whether or not to go back to Sri Lanka, according to the study advocating citizenship rights for the refugees.