The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) intends to increase funding to help resettle conflict-displaced people living in the North of Sri Lanka. About 300,000 displaced people now live in camps in the North.
“We will be asking for additional funds to assist resettlement in the North,” UNHCR Representative for Sri Lanka, Amin Awad, told a news conference last week.
“We hope to finalise an estimate before the end of June to finance resettlement assistance.”
The UNHCR says the government should start resettling people displaced from Jaffna and Mannar. While a majority of the displaced populations cannot be resettled until lands in the North are de-mined, the UN agency says, the resettlement process should start as soon as possible, starting with non-mined areas.
“People should be allowed to return to areas like Jaffna and Mannar,” Mr. Awad said. “The chief obstacle to resettlement is the mines and unexploded objects. The secondly problem is the lack of essential services. However, there are areas that do not have mines and unexploded objects, and in these areas, like Jaffna and Mannar, people should be allowed to return. Retaining such large numbers of people in camps is bad for the country and for the economy.”
The UNHCR suggests a “phased” resettlement process for the majority displaced communities in the North, where resettlement takes place in parallel with de-mining and the provision of essential services.
The UNHCR is also calling for access into all parts of the North in order to ascertain the needs of displaced persons being resettled.
“Our role is to conduct village-level assessments to find out what is required,” Mr. Awad said. “To do this, the government has to allow us to return to the North. We are presently not in areas like Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi.”