Sri Lankan Tamil families flee to India citing economic crisis

They reached clandestinely in Rameswaram on a boat.

March 22, 2022 06:47 pm | Updated March 23, 2022 07:52 am IST - RAMESWARAM

The Sri Lankan Tamil families that reached Danushkodi on March 22, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Sri Lankan Tamil families that reached Danushkodi on March 22, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has forced two ethnic Tamil families to flee the island nation. They reached Rameswaram clandestinely in a fibre boat in the early hours of Tuesday. In all, six persons, including a four-month-old baby boy, reached Arichalmunai near Dhanushkodi.

An Indian Coast Guard patrol spotted and detained them. They told officials that they left their country because of the spiralling prices of essential commodities and joblessness.

Preliminary inquiries revealed that they were from Jaffna and Talaimannar. According to a senior official who questioned them, the Sri Lankan nationals got into a boat around 10 p.m. on Monday and crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line past midnight. After dropping them off on a small island, the boatman returned, giving them a false hope that someone from Rameswaram would pick them up.

When reporters visited the spot, Gajendran, 24, son of Ranjith Kumar of Jaffna, said he had paid ₹10,000 for each adult for the boat ride, which was arranged by a relative. “I am a casual worker in Jaffna. I lost my job recently. The prices of basic goods have touched a new high. I don’t have any money. I have some relatives in Rameswaram. Hence, I decided to come here...” he added.

Mary Clarin, 23, wife of Gajendran, said they had food on Monday noon. “We were waiting on the shores since 4 p.m. to get into the boat. We, including my four-month-old son Nijath, did not have anything to eat since yesterday [Monday].”

Another woman identified as Deori, 28, said she has two children — Esther, 9, and Moses, 6. The situation in Sri Lanka was “alarming”. “There is food scarcity among the working class. I wanted to work, but I cannot leave my two children alone. Hence, I decided to go to India, where I have some relatives,” she said, claiming to have paid ₹10,000 for her boat trip.

The Indian Coast Guard, Mandapam, said in a press release that it received information about the arrival of the families from the Q Branch and launched a hovercraft in the region at 8.30 a.m. It identified six Sri Lankan nationals — one male, two females and three children (including an infant) — near the Fourth Island. They were brought to the Mandapam hoverport and interrogated.

“The confession revealed that they boarded a fishing boat at 10.30 p.m. [on Monday] and reached the Fourth Island at 1.30 a.m. Later, they were handed over to the police,” the release added.

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