RealNews

After centuries, now recognized

Stateless: Peace talks in Sri Lanka give thousands of tea workers their long-denied citizenship. Like their ancestors who worked for the British tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton, the 200 workers at the Dambatene tea plantation have spent their lives toiling in the lush fields that sprawl over this tropical island off the southern tip of India. And like the tea workers for centuries before them, the Dambatene workers were the stateless of Sri Lanka – among hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamils descended from Indians who were brought as slaves during British colonial rule. Unable to own property, denied government jobs and living without the basic documents of the modern world – passports, birth certificates, marriage papers – they survived on the fringes of society. The national census listed 860,500 Tamils in the stateless category in 2001. But, as Sri Lankans struggle to bring peace after two decades of ethnic war, stateless Tamils are finally gaining citizenship under a law passed by Parliament in October. Full Story

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