11,000 Tamils flee to India to escape Sri Lanka fighting

CHENNAI, India, Aug 31, 2006 (AFP) – More than 11,000 Tamil refugees have fled to India since January to escape renewed fighting between the Sri Lankan army and separatist rebels and more are likely to come, officials said Thursday. The figure includes a batch of about 500 refugees who travelled by boat to reach Mandapam camp in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state late Wednesday, said a senior government administrator from Ramanathapuram district.

Ramanathapuram, 700 kilometres (434 miles) from Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state, is the district nearest to Sri Lanka, ravaged by ethnic conflict since the early 1980s.

“So far 3,310 (Tamil) families have crossed over since January this year,” said the Ramanathapuram official who asked to remain anonymous.

“In figures, we are talking of 11,193 refugees,” he said.

India, whose Tamil population totals 62.2 million, shares close ethnic and cultural links with the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, who living mainly in the island’s north and the east.

The refugee tally was confirmed by C.P. Chandrahasan, who heads the Organisation of Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, a non-government organisation in Chennai.

“With the new refugees, we have more than 70,000 displaced Sri Lan