There are presently 64,208 refugees living in 107 government-run camps and roughly 40,000 refugees are estimated to be living outside the camps across Tamil Nadu. OfERR’s Community Building Program in the camps is aimed at strengthening the systems and structures in the refugee camps in order to strengthen local advocacy and improve basic facilities. It also helps to advocate informed, considered and voluntary decision making for refugee return. The coordination committees set up by OfERR enabled 1,655 refugees to receive Sri Lankan birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates for family members. The regional coordinators, through the camp committee meetings, update the community on the current Sri Lankan situation, refugee living context in Tamil Nadu, dangers involved in people smuggling, governmental schemes available and other information that is relevant to the refugee community. The camp coordination committees with the support of health workers campaigned on epidemics which resulted in no epidemics during the communicable diseases season. The regional coordination committees also played a significant role in negotiating with the government of Tamil Nadu to improve the infrastructure facilities in the camps – this includes basic needs such as repairing shelters, electricity connections and constructing toilets, bathing enclosures and construction of roads and bore wells. The camp coordination committees also mobilized support for Indians affected by the 2015 floods in Cuddalore and Chennai – Rs. 7,64,000 worth material was donated by refugees across 12 camps and was in turn distributed by OfERR to flood-hit pockets of Chennai and Cuddalore districts.
OfERR’s newsletter Elasutantiran collects information from news media, camp committees, OfERR volunteers, regional offices, OfERR (Sri Lanka) offices etc to update refugees about the current political situation in Sri Lanka, development measures taken there, asylum seeking procedures in Australia and other countires and updates on refugee camps. 1320 copies of the newsletter were circulated among the refugees in the camps on a monthly basis this past year. OfERR also updates a database of refugee families to provide medical assistance, enable them to access government schemes and support their return to Sri Lanka by obtaining their essential documents such as National Identity Cards, equivalent certificates and land documents in Sri Lanka. Additionally, OfERR undertakes extensive efforts to provide refugees in camps with counseling for mental health and de-addiction, nutrition for babies, young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, preventive health care for all ages and support for critical health care through coordination with government health workers.