Socialist Worker

Tamil refugee: ‘I had to flee with nothing’

Issue No. 2149

Nathan Kumar arrived in Britain in 1984 as a refugee from anti-Tamil pogroms in Sri Lanka. He is now chair of the British Tamils Forum.

He spoke to Socialist Worker about his experiences.

“One of my earliest memories is being a refugee in 1954 as a four year old child.

“I still remember sitting in front of a police station with my parents. We were almost killed.

“Tamils were treated as second class citizens. As I grew up I remember so many riots organised by the government.

“The British made us all slaves. After they left they handed control to the Sinhalese. That’s when systematic discrimination against Tamils started.

“We were kicked and killed. Education and employment were denied. Everything was taken away.

“During the outbreak of war in 1983 I was nearly killed many times. There were mobs roaming about the streets.

“I was very lucky to be able to speak three languages, so they couldn’t identify me straight away as a Tamil.

“But the mobs used electoral registers to identify where people lived.

“One day I was coming back from work and was warned by my Sinhalese neighbours that a mob was waiting for me at my house.

“They saved me – and that reminds me that most Sinhalese are very nice people.

“I was a chartered accountant, the finance director for a big company, but I had to flee the country with nothing.”

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