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As the economic crisis worsens, more Sri Lankans become refugees in India

For almost a year now, #SriLanka has been enmeshed in an unprecedented #economiccrisis whose origin dates back to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s total ban on agrochemicals-based fertilisers. The ban, imposed in May 2021, was heavily criticised by agriculture experts and scientists, with some calling it an “ill-advised” and “unscientific” strategy.*

Foreign debt, increasing inflation, fuel supply shortages, and several socio-economic fallouts related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, added to the increasingly inauspicious situation. Issues such as electricity #blackouts, as well as massive #shortages of essential goods, have made life in Sri Lanka almost unsustainable for its +20-million population.

As the economic crisis worsens, citizens of the Sri Lankan island-state are faced with the imperative to leave home and become #refugees in #Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of #India.

M. K. Stalin, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, has urged Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to provide humanitarian aid to Sri Lankan Tamils as they brave the sea route toward southern India. According to last year’s reports, there were 94,069 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India already, the majority living across the 107 camps spread across Tamil Nadu.

India’s #immigrationlaw makes it impossible for refugees to vote, obtain citizenship, and own property. Moreover, their freedom of movement is heavily restricted, and failure to comply with the government’s strict rules is punishable by cutting off their monthly stipend and rations.

Back home, Sri Lanka’s President has imposed a series of curfews since Thursday due to several protests firing up demanding his removal. As of April 1st, 54 people had been arrested for the unrest so far.

*Though Rajapaksa’s ban on pesticides was lifted in November 2021 as a result of massive farmer-led protests across the country, the agriculture industry had already taken a big hit, losing nearly 50% of its production capacity by that time.

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