Sri Lanka opens border to allow refugees to return home

Government says announcement of the suspension on 24 June has eased tensions with refugees and was in response to ‘external developments’

Sri Lanka has reopened its borders to international travelers, opening the way for several thousand refugees to return home from the war zone in the north, after nearly five months.

The announcement by the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday of the suspension of the Indian Ocean island’s border closure on 24 June had eased tensions with refugees and was a response to “external developments”, the government said.

On Tuesday, northern rebel groups announced they were ready to negotiate directly with the Colombo government to revive a new ceasefire pact – a move echoed by the main United National party leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a powerful cabinet member.

Sri Lanka asks refugees in India to return after almost two years Read more

“The prime minister on Thursday dissolved emergency regulations and deemed the decision to withdraw from the closure of border to keep their path open to the repatriation of the Indian refugee community,” the Sri Lanka customs and excise department said in a statement.

Wickremesinghe said in a statement that the move would allow refugees to come home peacefully.

The border closure to prevent refugees crossing into India failed to stem the flood of migrants heading for the shores of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu but evaded the notice of Colombo’s neighbors.

Its neighbours, India and Nepal, are small enough that they are not in a position to unilaterally disrupt immigration flows from Sri Lanka, where President Maithripala Sirisena is seeking the best possible economic growth.

Sirisena’s ruling coalition imposed emergency regulations to crack down on alleged terrorist activity following the end of Sri Lanka’s 35-year civil war in 2009.

The authorities repeatedly accused the Tamils of supporting the Tamil Tigers who wanted to create a separate homeland.

Tamils rejected the government’s claims and many of those who fled to India accuse the army of killing thousands of civilians during the final phase of the war.

The European Union, home to at least 110,000 Sri Lankan refugees, has previously objected to the authorities’ shutting of their borders.

Leave a Comment