Battered but bold: Sri Lankan Tamil refugee war experiences, camp challenges and resilience

Author(s): Miriam KUTTIKAT, Anita VAILLANCOURT, Michael MASSEY


The civil war prompted many Tamils to flee Sri Lanka as refugees. Several researchers have documented psychological distress and trauma among Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, but the literature lacks sufficient discussion of resilience among this population. Although Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have experienced conflict and loss, they have also demonstrated positive adaptation following these challenges. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

The present study used an ecological approach, in which the effect of the environment on a person is regarded as significant, to explore resilience among Sri Lankan Tamils living in refugee camps in India.

Through a qualitative investigation of refugee experiences of war and camp life, the authors developed a conceptual framework for understanding individual and collective resilience among refugees.

Additionally, the results of this study need to be interpreted with caution because participants were camp refugees, which may limit the applicability of these results with refugees who live in different settings.

The current research results show that intervention programs should have multiple components, including trauma intervention to address the individual and community psychological and psychiatric effects of war and migration experiences and psychosocial interventions to address individual, family, community dynamics and daily stressors.

The study participants stated that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are using their resilience traits including will power, positive talk, practical solutions, social support, religion and social networks to remake their broken souls.


Future studies need to be conducted with other refugee group to validate the findings of the paper.

Tags: India, Sri Lanka, Tamils, Refugees, Resilience, War trauma, Refugee camps

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