Introduction -- Asylum Diaspora
T his book is about the involuntary and voluntary migration of Tamils from the northern-most part of Sri Lanka, the Jaffna Peninsula, during twelve years of ethno-nationalist secessionist violence in the north and east, insurrection in the south, and island-wide state repression. At the time of completing this work (early 1995) it appeared that under a new government, Sri Lanka was entering a period of relative calm in which democratic principles were to be re-established; subsequent events, however, proved otherwise. During the one-hundred day truce the new government, like its predecessors, confirmed its commitment to continuing Sri Lanka's second phase of industrialisation, and the dividends of peace were eagerly awaited by those who were to reconstruct a divided country. President Chandrika recognised an ethnic problem in the country and made pledges about devolution, just settlements and increased material aid to affected areas. European governments welcomed the cease-fire which temporarily silenced critics of their plans to repatriate those Sri Lankan citizens refused refugee status. On 19 April 1995, however, Tamil rebels sank two Sri Lanka n navy gunboats in Trincomalee harbour, peace talks ceased, the Alliance government promised a new military offensive, international financial aid was stalled and European governments reconsidered their return programmes as the flow of asylum seekers from the island looked set to increase.
One of the consequences of Sri Lanka's conflicts has been -- and will continue to be -- the enormous upheaval of its population both internally and through overseas migration (see Maps 1.1 and 1.2). Around one and a half million Sri Lankans left their homes in reaction to the direct and indirect effects of war, and the over