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Escaping Economic Crisis

The little children are in panic, as they have experienced a lot of harassment in recent times. Their future, too, is uncertain. Risking their lives, these children, along with their family members, recently ventured out into the darkness of the night in search of a secured future. Their only mission was to reach India by any means. After spending the night on a boat, they reached the southern Indian coastal town of Rameshwaram, on June 17 (2022) morning. Upon their arrival, all the seven members of two Sri Lankan families, including two women, a man and three children, were detained by the Indian Police. The Police have claimed that many Sri Lankans have been flocking to the neighbouring country since March, facing an unknown future.

A number of Sri Lankan families from Trincomalee, Mannar and Vavuniya have arrived in India by sea in the past three months due to the severe economic crisis in the island nation. Nearly 83 Sri Lankan nationals have already taken shelter in the Mandapam Refugee Camp in Rameshwaram. The colonial British rulers had built this camp in the early 1900s in order to house migrant plantation workers coming to India from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan refugees

During interrogations, the detained Sri Lankans told the Indian Police that the situation in their country was terrible, and they rushed to India only for their survival. According to the Government of the southern Indian Province of Tamil Nadu, it has become increasingly difficult to accommodate the Sri Lankans at refugee camps. In a statement, the Provincial Government has mentioned that a total of 90 Sri Lankan nationals have sought refuge from March 22 to June 18 (2022), and 83 of them are now staying at Mandapam Camp.

The Mandapam refugee camp in Rameswaram is being used by Indian authorities to house those arriving from Sri Lanka

On May 24 (2022), the DW online portal reported that a 41-year-old lady, who wished to remain anonymous, and eight of her family members, including small children, fled to India by boat, in an attempt to escape the economic misery. Before leaving for India, they had sold their land in order to rent a boat. They travelled together with another family of four: a couple with their two children, aged four and one and a half. The lady told DW: “My husband and children could not find jobs. Every day the prices of food were increasing. My family needs at least 2kg of rice per day. The price we last paid for rice was around 250 Sri Lankan Rupees (USD 0.69) per kg. We had to pay around 500 Rupees per day for rice alone. We could not buy any other food items for our children.” She added: “My son has thalassemia. He has to eat nutritious food. I wanted to provide a better life for my children. That is why I decided to come to India. We were scared that we would be caught by Sri Lankan authorities while we were crossing and be told to go back. If we had been caught, all the money we had spent to rent the boat would have been for nothing. We were also scared of what awaited us in India.

Sri Lanka is in turmoil because of an economic crisis. The crisis prompted people to stage anti-Government protests across the island in March-April. As the protests turned violent, Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the Prime Minister on May 9. The 76-year-old Rajapaksa stated that he quit in order to help form an Interim Government, following weeks of violent protests over shortages of fuel and other vital imports, and spiralling prices.

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