Four of the Rajiv case convicts may be sent to special camp for refugees

They are likely to be kept in the camp till their repatriation to Sri Lanka

November 11, 2022 09:33 pm | Updated 09:38 pm IST - CHENNAI

Santhan, one of the convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Santhan, one of the convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Four of the six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, who are Sri Lankan nationals, may be shifted to special camps for refugees after the Supreme Court ordered their immediate release on Friday.

Indicating this, a senior official says the convicts will remain at the camps until they are repatriated to Sri Lanka, though the location of the camps has not been finalised yet. At present, two of them are at the Puzhal prison and the other two are at the Vellore prison. Sri Lankan officials in the country are expected to initiate the process of repatriation.

Even though there are two special camps in the State for refugees – one in Tiruchi district and the other in Ramanathapuram, the official says there is every possibility that the four persons will not be relocated to the existing special camps. The Public Department, under the Foreigners Act, has the power to declare any new place a special camp.

Sriharan alias Murugan.

Sriharan alias Murugan.

The four convicts — Jayakumar, Suthenthiraraja alias Santhan, Murugan and Robert Payas — had entered India without passports and visas. Robert Payas and Jayakumar registered themselves in September 1990 as refugees on arrival.

Another official familiar with the issue of refugees says those who are facing deportation or covered under the Foreigners Act or the Passports Act can be kept at the camp. In the given case, the four are predominantly in the second category. A former official says the status of “non-camp refugees” can be given to them if the State government gets the Centre’s clearance.

Gladston Xavier, associate professor in social work, Loyola College, who has been working in the area of migration, says refugees are not forcibly sent back to their countries, given the principle of “non-refoulement”.

[According to Article 33(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention, no contracting state shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his [or her] life or freedom would be threatened on account of his (or her) race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.]

Experts point out that despite not being a party to the Convention, India has been broadly adhering to the principle.

An official of the Sri Lankan High Commission says that if the released persons approach his office, their case will have to be cleared at different levels.  

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