The Ministry Of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation said that over 11,000 Sri Lankan Refugees in South India had returned through illegal modes of transport. But around 10,000 have returned legally, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of RRR Dr. A. S. Kunasingham said.
Around 3,300 returned through the UNHCR last year.
Over 55,000 persons remain as refugees in India, He said that urgent measures were being taken to accelerate the process of return.
The MRRR in collaboration with the UNHCR plans to bring down 5,000 refugees this year. However, they said that they were prepared to bring down more than the said amount depending on the willingness of the Sri Lankan and Indian governments.
A spokesman for the government said the MRRR through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have to work in close collaboration with the Indian government to expedite the process of returning.
However, the government fears that more refugees would endanger themselves by returning through illegal means. `We cannot stop them from returning to their homeland,` he stated.
Sri Lankan refugees stranded on sand dunes after attempting to return illegally to the country have been reported on several occasions while government authorities and private organisations in the North and East have expressed concern over the lives of those returning in hired boats only to be stranded on the middle of a sand dune in the night. Some of these organisations even alleged that the returnees had been harassed mentally and physically on several occasions leaving them helpless.