Will expedite refugees return to Sri Lanka - PM
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has reiterated that it is the policy of his government to encourage the return of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in India by removing legal and other hurdles. Replying to a question of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Douglas Devananda, Wickremesinghe told that steps would be taken to issue [provisional, one-way] passports in two to four weeks to the refugees in India through the website of the Department of Immigration and Emigration, according to a release issued by the EPDP on the discussion in Parliament. Devananda told that it took almost a year for refugees to secure provisional one-way passports. The Prime Minister’s assurance would go a long way in expediting the process. The Prime Minister said that since 2003, those aged below 22 years would not have to pay charges for registering themselves with the authorities for getting citizenship. A similar arrangement was being worked out in respect of those who were aged above 22 years. To apply for citizenship, a simplified procedure was being adopted. Apart from birth certificates of parents and refugees concerned, the recommendation of the office of the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Chennai was required, Wickremesinghe informed, adding that efforts were on to provide lands to enable returnee-refugees for resettlement. The EPDP leader said that in respect of those refugees not having the birth certificates, records maintained by officials at camps and police stations in India could be regarded as the requisite documents. An official of the Prime Minister’s Office clarified to this correspondent that Mr Wickremesinghe’s statement on the refugees had to be viewed only in the case of those who were willing to return to Sri Lanka.