RAMANATHAPURAM: In a confidence gaining initiative, Sri Lankan authorities on Saturday began issuing birth certificates to children of Tamil refugees who have been living in camps here. Around 13 officials of the Sri Lankan Embassy led by the country’s Deputy High Commissioner in South India Vadivel Krishnamoorthy undertook the exercise of recording the birth of children at a special camp conducted at the district Collectorate.
Nisanthan of Pechalai could not hide his smile when authorities handed over the birth certificate for his nine-month old son Nitharson. “I had approached the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation to make arrangements for getting my son’s birth certificate. Today I got one and I am excited as this is a very important document,” he said.
“This certificate will help my son Sarujan to get passport and also apply for a government job in our country later,” said Rathiban of Mannar adding that many refugees were keen that their children grow up in their homeland.
Vadivel Krishnamoorthy said the camp was being conducted to spare the refugees of difficulties. “The Sri Lankan government would treat these refugees as children of the country when they returned to their native land,” he said.
Unlike in India, where the birth certificate records the caste of the child, in the Island nation, children are segmented only on the basis of race. Officials mentioned the race of the refugees as ‘Lankan Tamils.’
Explaining on the birth certificates, A E Nilanthini, Second Secretary, the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission, said, “We classify children only under four categories — Moors, Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils — in our birth certificates. We do not have any kind of caste system in our country.”
Until now, children born in the over 100 Tamil refugee camps in the State including the one at Mandapam were issued Indian birth certificates which was not recognised by authorities in the Island nation.
Now that those leading the Eelam war have been decimated, a section of the refugees are keen to go back to their homeland.
The issue of birth certificates was discussed at the diplomatic level between India and Sri Lanka and the latter agreed to issue the certificates under the Birth and Death Registration Act.
Earlier, similar camps for distributing birth certificates to the refugees were conducted in Gummidipoondi near Chennai, Madurai and Virudhunagar districts.
Saturday’s camp, inaugurated by Ramanathapuram District Collector Aruna Roy, was organised jointly by the State Commissionerate for Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils and the Sri Lankan High Commission.
Assistant Commissioner for Rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils Saraswathi was also present.