Puvaneswary was young and unmarried. She was unable to talk to me about the rape, and the trauma which rape induces was worsened by the 'spoiling of her body' which in Tamil society could ruin her future. After such incidents many young girls took their own lives, whilst others who were able left the north.
There were very few rebel activists who were able to break away from the LTTE, and other militant groups, and secure a safe passage to the West. Those who were able, like Bala (above) agree that they were the lucky ones, but left behind many younger boys and girls who did not come from a middle-class background, and who did not have the opportunity to escape. Indeed, opportunity is a crucial factor linking those groups of Tamils who arrived in Switzerland during the years of the Middle Phase. It has been described how intensive military action imprisoned Tamils in the north during 1987, and those who sought asylum in Switzerland during that year had been able to do so because their families had had the foresight, and the resources, to move them down to Colombo in advance of the Sri Lankan army and IPKF campaigns.
Whilst the cost of the journey increased over these years, it still remained within the reach of many petty landowners, businessmen and minor professionals, and was well within the reach of those who received remittances from overseas. The route out of Sri Lanka to Europe (via India and eastern Europe and the Balkans) was still relatively uncomplicated and travel papers could be secured. Even so, flight to the West continued, in the most part, to be the preserve of economically dominant middle-class families. Tamils from poorer, rural communities largely lacked both the opportunity and the resources to leave.