CHENNAI : The Deputy High Commission of Sri Lanka in Chennai conducted an event recently to hand over the first batch of ” All Country Passports” to Sri Lankan nationals resettled in Tamil Nadu.
The Government of Sri Lanka has so far been issuing a travel document called Refugee Repatriation Passport for this segment of Sri Lankans for the purpose of only returning to Sri Lanka considering their irregular stay in India. The Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission in Chennai made a proposal to the Government of Sri Lanka taking into account the volume of requests received from these Sri Lankans to issue all country passport enabling them to travel to other countries for higher education, employment opportunities and family reunification etc.
Consequently, under the directives of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, a Committee headed by the Secretary to the Prime Minister was formed including key stakeholders such as the Department of Immigration and Emigration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Justice to carry out this project.
So far, over 3500 applicants have shown interest to apply for the passports under this scheme and 900 applicants have already applied for passports. Significance of this initiative is that for the first time, the Government of Sri Lanka under this initiative has considered issuing passports to the children born in India to Sri Lankan parents if they have met the necessary requirements.
Addressing the gathering, Minister of Minorities Welfare and Non-Resident Tamils Welfare of the Government of Tamil Nadu Gingee K.S Masthan, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India Kshenuka Senewiratne, and Governor of the Eastern Province Senthil Thondaman underscored the significance of this historic milestone. Senior Advisor to the President Sagala Ratnayake who joined the virtually also addressed the audience.
Vairamuthu Baskaran and Sugumaran Thaneswary, Sri Lankans living in Thoppukollai and Keezhputhupattu rehabilitation camps (receivers of passports) also shared their thoughts about this initiative. The officials from the central government of India, the state government of Tamil Nadu, and related Sri Lankan government institutions also attended the event.
Delivering his speech, Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Southern India Dr. D. Venkateshwaran expressed his gratitude to all stakeholders who worked tirelessly to make this initiative a great success.
92,000 Sri Lankans who have come to India are currently being accommodated in Tamil Nadu by the Government of India. Nearly 58,500 of them are accommodated in 106 rehabilitation camps across Tamil Nadu and around 33,500 are residing outside camps under Tamil Nadu police registration.