Sri Lanka will facilitate the return of nearly one lakh of its Tamil citizens, now living in India as refugees, once it completes the resettlement of the displaced persons in the northern areas of the country, a senior minister said on Monday.
"We are looking at the prospects of bringing back nearly 1,00,000 Sri Lankan Tamils now settled in Tamil Nadu and other adjoining areas. But this will be taken up after rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced IDPs who are in welfare camps in Vavuniya and other areas," Minister for Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Ameer Ali told PTI.
The minister said it was important that the displaced in the Northern and Eastern Part of Sri Lanka were resettled before bringing in the Sri Lankan Tamils living in India.
The Sri Lankan Tamils in India wanting to return to the country include 28,500 people who were finally conferred the citizenship of Sri Lanka in January this year after months of discussions in the Parliament as they did not have proper documents to claim their citizenship.
Most of these refugees had fled for India during the three decade period of ethnic conflict. They now awaiting issue of documents before being able to return to Sri Lanka.
Chairman of Parliamentary Select Committee for Granting Citizenship to Refugees Ramalingam Chandrasekaran said most of the refugees in Tamil Nadu are willing to return.
The process for the issue of proper documents has already set in motion, Chandrasekaran said, adding that the people will be able to return home in phases.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province, Basil Rajapaksa, said the government wanted to localise development projects to suit the needs of the people in the northern areas.
He also invited private investment in undertaking developmental projects in the region from where the LTTE has been wiped out.
Nearly three lakh people have been displaced in northern Sri Lanka as a result of the military's just-ended offensive against the LTTE.