As many as 18 Sri Lankan nationals fled the crisis-hit island nation and arrived in India on Friday and were accommodated at a refugee camp set up in Tamil Nadu’s Ramanathapuram district. The 18 will join dozens of others who fled Sri Lanka over the past weeks.

Speaking to news agency PTI, the Sri Lankan national said they could not even afford milk powder and slammed president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government for its apathy towards its citizens.

Also read: Rights group demands probe into Sri Lanka police shooting

Among the 18 – who crossed in two batches – were children and women.

Currently, Sri Lanka is battling a crippling financial crisis due to a lack of foreign currency. The country has a debt of over $50 billion, of which an estimated $8.6 billion is due this year.

Also read: IMF asks cash-strapped Sri Lanka to restructure debt before bailout: Report

However, its forex reserves are almost non-existent.

Earlier, Sri Lanka’s central bank said it had dropped 16.1 per cent – from $2.31 billion in February to $1.93 billion in March.

Sri Lanka had said it would default on external debts pending a bailout from the International Monetary Fund; Colombo hopes to get $4 billion.

Also read: Myanmar military government denies rumours of fuel shortages

Sri Lanka said it was suspending payments to avoid a hard default and conserve limited reserves for the import of essential items like food, fuel, and medicine.

The price of essential items has skyrocketed triggering shortages and protests. Earlier this week the price of petrol was raised to LKR 338 per litre – an increase of LKR 84 (approx. INR 80) – prompting furious protests and demonstrations.

Also read: Protester shot dead by Sri Lankan police, first death since start of massive protests

Protests have also led to violent clashes in which at least one person has died.

India has offered Sri Lanka multiple lines of credit worth over $2 billion, in addition to two tranches of fuel aid worth $500 million each.

Also read: Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa says president’s powers will be reduced

The second was announced by Sri Lanka foreign minister GL Peiris on Wednesday. So far India has provided nearly 400,000 tons of petrol and diesel.