Colombo: A group of Sri Lankan refugees
returned to their homeland from India by a ferry, the first
such batch to arrive in the country through sea route,
officials said on Thursday.
The refugees numbering 37, who belonged to 15 families,
arrived at the Colombo port yesterday from Tuticorin in Tamil
Nadu on board `Scotia Prince` ferry, the officials said.
They were welcomed by Sri Lankan Minister for Economic
Development Basil Rajapaksa upon their arrival.
Their return under the auspices of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was part of a voluntary,
facilitated repatriation programme, supported by the
governments of both India and Sri Lanka.
Up to now, the refugees had returned to Sri Lanka from
India by air. The transport by ferry is significant as it
allows them to bring their possessions, the UNHCR said.
The Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service, which runs twice
weekly, was commenced in June.
The UN agency says that since the conflict ended in May
2009, Sri Lankan refugees have been steadily returning to
their home country, mainly from India and some other
Over 1,400 refugees have returned so far this year,
compared to 2,054 refugees in 2010.
The refugees, upon their return to the country, receive a
reintegration grant and transport allowance to help them get
back to their homes.
Once the returnees reach their final destination in the
country, they can approach one of UNHCR`s five offices in the
North and East to obtain a kit of basic household supplies.
UNHCR`s most recent statistics showed that there were
141,063 Sri Lankan refugees in 65 countries, with the majority
in India, followed by France, Canada, Germany, the United
Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, the United States