School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance

Training cum Workshop on ‘Statelessness and Indian Origin Sri Lankan Refugees’


Date and time: Oct. 30, 2017 9:30AM - Oct. 31, 2017 4:30PM

Venue: Hotel Raj Palace Sundar, 12, Durgabai Deshmukh Road, Opp. Sathya Studios, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai-28

In collaboration with United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)


India at present hosts over 60,000 of Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu and an estimated 40% of this population are Hill country Tamils. Hill country Tamils are individuals who were taken by the British in the 19th century from India to work in the tea plantations in Sri Lanka. The laborers taken from India were referred to as Hill country Tamils to differentiate them from the Sri Lankan Tamils who have been residing in the island nation since the 13th century. The Hill Tamils have historically been excluded from becoming nationals of either country. Restrictions in citizenship laws of both countries meant the Hill Tamils were effectively excluded: the Ceylon Citizenship Act (1948) required that those born before independence prove that two generations of their families had been born in Sri Lanka; and the Indian Residents Act (1949) required a seven-year period of uninterrupted residence, and a specific level of income for an individual to qualify for citizenship. The Hill Tamils could not meet these requirements; rendering them stateless. Although several bilateral agreements between India and Sri Lanka were initiated to end statelessness, a considerable number of Hill Country Tamils still remain stateless. The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka which lasted over three decades led to the displacement of thousands of people which included Hill country Tamils. Displaced stateless Hill country Tamils who fled to India to seek refuge continue to live in refugee camps and outside camps in India. Over the years, the number of this population would have increased with the birth of children to Hill county Tamils. The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. Nationality entitles individuals their rights and responsibilities. In the absence of a nationality, individuals wouldn’t be able to assert their rights and exercise their duties towards a country. With the increase in number of refugees repatriating to Sri Lanka and a considerable number of refugees who have established their lives in India and do not want to return to Sri Lanka, it becomes imperative to address their statelessness. Hill country Tamils are estimated to form a large part of the Tamil refugee group in Tamil Nadu, India, Although voluntary repatriation is the preferred durable solution for refugees, Hill Country Tamil refugees residing in India would have difficulties in gaining/regaining their citizenship on return: While the Sri Lankan Act of 2009 allows those stateless Hill Tamils to acquire citizenship who fled the country and have lived in refugee camps in India since the 1980s, there is no information on how this is being executed. The process and legal documentation required to avail citizenship through this route is not clear and there is no information on the number of refugees who have availed the Sri Lankan grant for citizenship. Also, it is unclear how many refugees would actually meet the criteria outlined by the Sri Lankan government to obtain citizenship on return. The citizenship status of the refugee population who choose to stay back in India remains unclear. Currently, there aren’t any durable solutions available for them and there arises a need to understand to their social and legal needs. Government and civil societies need to have a better understanding of the situation and this is currently deficient due to the lack of information available.

A conference of concerned stakeholders becomes an imperative in this context to address the concerns of Hill Country Tamils living in India. Hence TISS in collaboration with UNHCR is organising the training cum workshop on statelessness amongst Sri Lankan refugees in India.


The objective is to enhance the understanding among the stakeholders on the issue of statelessness on Sri Lankan refugees in India and to suggest policies and actions to establish effective durable solutions for Indian origin Tamils along with larger durable solutions for all.

This training is in line with UNHCR’s mandate as per the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness, UNHCR Action Point 10 [To improve quantitative and qualitative data on stateless persons] by continuing to undertake promotional activities on statelessness in collaboration with academic and civil society partners.


The conference will be for two days (30 th -31 st October 2017) engaging all concerned multi-stakeholders:

Participants: 60

Representatives Number of Individuals
Academic Scholars & Researchers 15
Refugees 25
Civil Societies 10
Government officials 10


The participants will include:

  • Tamil Nadu Government Officials
  • NGO and Civil Societies: ADRA india, OfERR, JRS, CRS, Lebara etc
  • Academics who have demonstrated interest in refugee and statelessness issues:
    • Prof. Suryanarayanan (Former director of Centre for South Asian Studies)
    • Prof. Bernad D’Sami, (coordinator, LISSTAR, Loyola college,Chennai)
    • Rev. Dr. A. Louie Albert, SJ (Loyola college)
    • Prof Samuel Asir Raj (MSU)
    • Prof. Arvind Tiwari, (TISS)
    • Dr. Parivelan K.M. (TISS)
    • Dr. Devakumar Jacob (TISS)
    • Mr. Francis Adaikalam (Loyola College)
    • Dr. Ashik J. Bonafer (Madras Christian College)
    • Dr. Geeta (DG Vaishnav College)
    • Dr. Sandra Joseph (Stella Marris)
    • Dr. Ramajayam (Bharathidasan University)
    • Mr. Suresh Mariaselvam (VIT)
    • Prof. Sankar (Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University)
  • Representatives from Think Tanks
    • Observers Research Foundation
    • Centre for China Studies
    • South Asian Studies
  • Representatives from Hill Country Tamil refugees and other Sri Lankan Refugees

For more details contact:

Dr. Parivelan K.M.
Associate Professor,
School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Mobile: +91-9029090805

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