- Disclosing this, the Deputy High Commission of Sri Lanka in Chennai, in its reply to a questionnaire sent by The Hindu, stated that the certificates were issued through 20 special consular camps held between February 23 and December 15.
- In addition, nearly 900 consular birth certificates were given to the Sri Lankan expatriates living in rehabilitation camps in the State, through about 25 special consular camps conducted from October 2021 to December 2022.
- Till 2021, special consular camps were meant only for birth registration and for accepting the citizenship application for children born in India to Sri Lankan parents.
- “As a special initiative” of Deputy High Commissioner D. Venkateshwaran, who took charge in April 2021, such camps now included the issuance of Sri Lankan citizenship certificates, which were received from the Department of Immigration and Emigration of the Sri Lankan government, the Mission said.
- It had also sought approval and facilitation by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu government to visit rehabilitation camps in the State.
- “And, we expect that the approval will be granted in near future, enabling this Mission to enter those rehabilitation camps and directly interact with Sri Lankans living in such camps,” the reply said.
- To a question, the Deputy High Commission said that about 14,000 consular birth certificates were issued in the last five years.
- The Mission “issues consular birth certificate on the same day of the submission of the application without any delay, if all the documents are in order, and the citizenship application is also accepted simultaneously by this Mission in order to forward [it] to the Department of Immigration & Emigration, which is the issuing authority”, it explained.
- On the question of voluntary repatriation of the refugees to Sri Lanka, the Mission said that in the last three years, “we managed to repatriate around 500 Sri Lankans with the [financial] assistance of UNHCR”, adding that it gave away, free of cost, refugee repatriation passports (RRP) to Sri Lankan nationals who were living in rehabilitation camps and outside the camps with police registration.
- After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the process of voluntary repatriation was suspended. It resumed on October 22, 2021.
- The Deputy High Commission added that of the 28 Sri Lankan fishermen lodged in jails in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, 17 were in Tamil Nadu. Cases had been filed by the Government of India and the respective State governments against them.
- Apart from requesting officials of the MEA and the Tamil Nadu government to release the fishermen, the Mission, which visited the inmates in prison, had also made representations in courts of law and joint interrogation meetings.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB