Accelerated programme to address issues faced by refugees returning from India | Daily News

Accelerated programme to address issues faced by refugees returning from India

The Justice Ministry in collaboration with the Office for Reparations (OR) has initiated an accelerated programme to address the issues faced by the refugees who have returned and those returning from India under the guidance of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.

A Special Committee chaired by Justice Ministry Secretary Wasantha Perera has been appointed and is engaged in simplifying the processes to provide the relevant documents for returnees without any further delay, a release issued by the Justice Ministry said yesterday.

This Committee comprises the Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration, all District Secretaries of the Northern Province and representatives from the Presidential Secretariat, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Registrar General’s Department, Department of Registration of Persons, and Office for Reparations.

The issues faced by the Refugees who have returned from India is being addressed by the Office for Reparations (OR), which is a statutory organization that provides relief measures to the victims of conflict in pursuance of the Office for Reparations Act No. 34 of 2018.On the instructions of Minister Dr. Rajapaksha, a separate unit has been established in Jaffna District Secretariat to collect such information.

For the deliberations of the Special Committee, Nazeema Ahamed, Director General of the OR highlighted the key issues faced by the Refugees that includes delays in obtaining citizenship as a result of not having supporting documents, delays in obtaining birth and marriage certificates, penalty imposed on repatriation, Land restitution issues and inadequate job opportunities for the graduates (children of refugee parents) who hold foreign degrees due to non-recognition of such qualifications obtained from Indian institutes.

The Committee in a positive note has agreed to devise a simplified mechanism wherever possible to expedite the process and to provide assistance in obtaining the supporting documents to prove Sri Lankan citizenship of the refugees, so that they can obtain their Sri Lankan birth certificates and citizenship certificates.

Among others, the following key decisions have already been taken by the Committee.

• Organizing a mobile camp in October in the Northern Province with the participation of relevant stakeholders to provide documental support

• Accepting documents at district secretariat level in relation to obtaining citizenship, which is currently being handled by the Colombo Head Office

• Revisiting the checklist of documents that are to be produced to obtain citizenship, since the refugees are finding it difficult to submit some of these documents• Waive off/reduce the penalty payments for delays in obtaining the certificates. Separate meetings will be held with relevant stakeholders to address the issue with the recognition/accreditation of professional and education qualifications acquired from some Indian institutions.

The Committee will meet regularly to discuss the progress on the agreed action with regard to the returnees already living in Sri Lanka and to facilitate the process of repatriation of refugees that are to arrive in the future.

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