'Sri Lanka Isn't Same Anymore': Tamil Refugees Flee Country's Worst Forex Crisis

So far, 16 Sri Lankan nationals – all Tamils from Jaffna and Mannar regions – have arrived in Tamil Nadu.

2 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

Producer: Smitha TK


A boat was waiting for Gajendran (24), his wife Mary Clarine (22), and their four-month-old son at Jaffna to help them flee to India. They left their home country on 22 March, and at around 10 pm, they were stranded at a sand dune in the middle of the waters. Desperate for help, they contacted the Indian Coast Guard, who moved them to safety.

“An input was received regarding the illegal migration of Sri Lankan nationals to India," a release from the Coast Guard read. "On receipt of input, ICGS Mandapam had launched Hovercraft H-181 immediately for sanitising the area, and two hours later, the hovercraft located six persons from the fourth island of Rameshwaram,” the release added.

Tiori Anistan, 28, was also in the boat with her six-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.

"We can’t live in Sri Lanka anymore. We don't have jobs and can't afford food anymore. We took the little we can and fled to Tamil Nadu hoping to find a good life here," said Clarine.

A total of 16 Sri Lankan nationals, all Tamils from the Jaffna and Mannar regions in the north, reached Tamil Nadu in two batches on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka is witnessing a forex crisis especially due to the collapse of tourism during the pandemic. The crisis has led to widespread unemployment, massive food shortage, high inflation, and power cuts.

'Many Looking to Find Home in India'

"The prices are rising, and we are unable to run a house. The situation is so poor that we can’t even find jobs there. The prices of everything is rising, and we can’t afford anything anymore. And even if we work, we get paid a meagre amount only."
Gajendran, Sri Lankan National

Sri Lanka has witnessed massive protests over shortages and steep prices, with some even entering the President’s office. Notably, a week ago, India had extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka, which is in the midst of a severe economic crisis. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had said that his government would work with the International Monetary Fund to tide over the crisis.

Officials believe that this may be the beginning of an exodus as the refugees who have come so far said that many more are attempting to flee Sri Lanka and find refuge in Tamil Nadu.

"So many refugees have come to India seeking a new life. And now that we have lost our livelihoods... many Sri Lankans are looking to find a home here (in India)."
Mary Clarine, Srilankan National

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