Aug 20 (Asian Age) Among the 61 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees caught trying to sail to Australia by the Tamil Nadu police late Thursday night was a very angry woman. Pamini Nagula, 32, had planned to take along her three little children on that perilous boat trip across the Indian Ocean because, as she put it, “there’s no future in the refugee camps here and we are treated by the police as dogs”.
Besides, Pamini's husband had gone on a similar boat ride to Australia two years and was not heard since. "If he is alive, we will reunite in Australia; if he had died at sea, we will still join him in death", a defiant Pamini said, speaking to DC at a marriage hall in Kancheepuram where all the 61 refugees were housed after being caught by the 'Q' branch police in that late night operation. She has since been remanded by a magistrate to custody, along with three men in the group, for alleged collusion with agents smuggling asylum seekers to Australia.
Pamini said her 10x10 sq ft shed in the Puzhal refugee camp had a tarpaulin roof that leaked in rain. She worked in a supermarket for a salary of Rs5000 a month and that was not sufficient to take care of her kids' education.
"All these people held in this hall now have been living in Tamil Nadu, in India, for more than 20 years, but only as refugees. We live amid huge financial problems and denial of basic rights since we do not have citizenship. I was called a refugee dog by a policeman who caught me riding a Scooty without licence; he would not listen when I told him refugees are not issued driving licences", said the angry woman.
The refugees in that group, and others, spoken to during interviews in recent days, sounded adamant that they would continue trying those perilous boat trips to seek asylum in Australia. When pointed out that Australia has now tightened the immigration laws, which made it almost impossible for them to gain asylum there even if they survived the ocean, they insisted they would still get on to those horrible boats. Over 600 persons have drowned in the last few years while trying to cross the sea.