Police in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu said on Friday that they had detained five Sri Lankan Tamil refugees as they were attempting to get on a boat and escape to Sri Lanka.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the state police said the Sri Lankan Tamils had told them that they had escaped from one of the refugee camps set up for them in the state.
They were taken to an interrogation centre in Tamil Nadu's Ramanathapuram district for further questioning to find out why they wanted to leave India and go back to Sri Lanka, news agency ANI reported.
Tamil Nadu: 5 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, who were trying to flee to Sri Lanka from Rameswaram, were caught by the Q branch police. They are being taken to Ramanathapuram and Ramanathapuram Q branch police office is investigating the matter.— ANI (@ANI) January 24, 2020
The incident went viral on social media, with netizens giving different reactions: some described the refugees as smugglers, while others appealed to the local authorities to deport them back to Sri Lanka.
They are just plain smugglers.— Mallikarjuna (@HariHaraBhakta) January 24, 2020
Once they are about the caught, they dumped their merchandise and pretend to be refugees, so that they will get some positive attention from Dumeel media.https://t.co/RA4HPiGB2M
Flee or returning?— Bulla 2002 (@BullaDmello) January 24, 2020
जाने दो ना अपने देश उनको (Let them go back to their country)— Ek Musafir (@EkMusafir12) January 24, 2020
Who Cares? 😃— ᴘʀᴏᴜᴅ ɪɴᴅɪᴀɴ #India_2020 (@Back_Online_) January 24, 2020
Friday’s detention of five refugees comes more than a month after six other refugees from Sri Lanka were arrested by the state police in the coastal town of Rameswaram while attempting to escape to Sri Lanka by boat. They included two women, three men and a child and were living in a refugee camp at Tiruvannamalai.
According to a recent Forced Migration Review (FMR) report, a majority of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu consider themselves as stateless.
The report further states that these refugees escaped from Sri Lanka over 30 years ago at the height of the civil war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).