Relocated IDPs yet to reach home: UN report

  • Aid workers say people transferred from one closed camp to another
  • Rehabilitation Ministry says it’s the responsibility of Government Agents
By Satarupa Bhattacharjya

In its latest situation report from districts in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), said, a section of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been sent out of post-war camps in Vavuniya to resettle in their places of origin, are yet to make it home.

Internally displaced people leaving Manik Farm in Vavuniya

The UN agency which has been assisting the Sri Lankan government to relocate a few hundred IDPs back to their homes in the north and east, said, in its joint humanitarian update based on “reports by government agents” in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Trincomalee, that as of September 15, over 2,000 IDPs who had been taken out of transit camps in Vavuniya to be relocated in their home districts have been placed under “movement restrictions” in these places.

“On 11 September, 568 IDPs were moved from IDP transit sites in Vavuniya district to Jaffna district. They are accommodated at the Kaithady University hostel IDP camp. Movement restrictions have been imposed on these IDPs,” the UNOCHA report said. According to the report which is also available on the internet, another “1,706 IDPs transferred from the Vavuniya camps to Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Trincomalee districts on 11 September, have not been able to return to their homes. They are temporarily accommodated in transit sites, where they have no freedom of movement.”

“We sent the IDPs back to their homes. We don’t know more about the process because our responsibility was to hand them over to the government agents in the northern and eastern districts,” U. L. M. Halaldeen told the Sunday Times when asked about the 2,000 plus IDPs who according to the UNOCHA report are still being kept in temporary camps. Mr. Halaldeen is the secretary in the ministry of resettlement and disaster relief services in Colombo.

While government agents in the northern districts were either too busy over the weekend to answer questions from the newspaper or said they were not fully aware about details of the resettlement process, sources among aid workers in the region hinted at the possibility of “further screening” of the IDPs who according to them, “have been transferred from one closed camp to another.” According to the sources, aid organisations have limited access to the camps in which the IDPs in transit have been housed.

Governor of the northern province, major general G. A. Chandrasiri declined to comment on the issue when the Sunday Times approached him with the question of the transit IDPs. Attempts to reach Basil Rajapaksa, chairperson of the government’s task force on resettlement, also failed in the weekend.
The UNOCHA estimated that 264,583 IDPs were still living inside camps and hospitals in the north and east. As many as 6,615 people from temporary camps have been “released” into host families and elders’ homes as of 9 September 2009, the report said adding that the majority of those taken out of the post-war camps are the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

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