UNHCR MARKS PROGRESS IN SRI LANKA — REFUGEE PROTECTION NO LONGER NECESSARY -Scaling Back Operations in Batticaloa
Posted on July 7th, 2010

COUNTRY INFORMATION UPDATE EMBASSY OF SRI LANKA,
WASHINGTON, D.C.

JULY 07, 2010 

The United Nations refugee commission, UNHCR, has issued a report noting the substantial progress and stability Sri Lanka has attained in the year since it declared victory over the LTTE terrorist group in May 2009.

“At the time of writing,” the July 5, 2010 report states, “the security situation in Sri Lanka had significantly stabilized, paving the way for a lasting solution for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country’s north and east.

“Given the cessation of hostilities, Sri Lankans originating from the north of the country are no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm.”

The report includes a positive assessment of the government’s efforts to resettle “some 280,000 persons, who were forced to flee their homes during the final phase of the conflict.

“By mid-June 2010, approximately 246,000 persons had left the displacement camps to return to their places of origin or live with host families, relatives and friends. More returns are expected to take place within the coming weeks and months.”

Future challenges, the study notes, include those IDPs still left in camps, “due to the total or partial destruction of their homes and the ongoing de-mining operations.”

Land disputes, including the arbitrary seizure of land belonging to Muslims by the LTTE in the north and east,” also remain a challenge, UNHCR said.

“Other measures taken by the Government since the end of the conflict, such as the relaxation of emergency legislation, marked a shift towards a peacetime agenda. Restrictions on the freedom of movement have also been eased as a consequence of the improvement in the security situation.

“Sri Lanka has experienced significant political developments during the first half of 2010. The country went to the polls in January to elect a new president, and in April to elect the first Parliament of the post-conflict era. Furthermore, some areas of the north such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts that had previously been under the control of the LTTE for decades are now governed by the central authorities.

“The greatly improved situation in Sri Lanka is still evolving,” the report found, adding that it has, “resulted in a reduction in the number of Sri Lankans seeking international protection in industrialized countries. During the period from January to June 2010, 2,947 asylum applications have been registered “”…” compared to 4,573 applications registered during the same period in 2009 “”…” representing a 35 percent decrease.”

Reductions in Batticaloa

At the same time, UNHCR announced in a recent press release that it was starting to scale back its operations to help internally displaced people in eastern Sri Lanka and closing its office in Batticaloa.

“As the majority of internally displaced people in Batticaloa District over the last eight years have now returned to their places of origin and have been receiving protection and assistance from UNHCR, we are now able to start phasing down our operations,” said UNHCR Representative in Sri Lanka Michael Zwack.

UNHCR has been operating out of Batticaloa since 2002, assisting waves of people displaced by various phases of the prolonged conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) “”…” and also the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004.

During the peak of the conflict, 160,000 people were displaced from within Batticaloa and the district also received 140,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from other locations in the east, particularly in 2006 from Trincomalee District further north.

The conflict in the east ended in 2007, and displaced people started returning to their homes with assistance from UNHCR and the government.

There are still 90 families (433 individuals) displaced in Batticaloa and 507 families (1,756 people) displaced in the neighbouring district of Ampara, waiting for demining activities to finish before they can safely return home. It is expected that they will be able to return within the next couple of months.

 

SRI LANKA MODEL DEVELOPING COUNTRY, UNIDO REPORTS, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN

The director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization has cited Sri Lanka as “a model developing country,” that faces global challenges in the future.

Kandeh k. Yumkella, who heads up UNIDO, said that “Sri Lanka is seen as a model developing country. In the industrial sector it has demonstrated the ability to compete globally in selected sectors. This is a sound platform to build upon. UNIDO has provided significant support to the industrial sector, international accreditation of laboratories which assisted Sri Lankan industry to compete globally. We are using the Sri Lankan capacity built as South-South training models.”

Director General Yumkella said that Sri Lanka faces stiff competition from other countries in the region. “One key challenge is the logistic performance and infrastructure,” he said.

During his visit, Director-General Yumkella met Prime Minister D.M. Jayarathna, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiyutheen, and the Deputy Minister of External Affairs, Geethanjana Gunawardene.

They discussed the industrialization of Sri Lanka especially in the Northern and Eastern provinces where the Government and UNIDO are jointly promoting small and medium industries to provide employment and economic empowerment to some 40,000 war widows. Technology transfer, value addition, developing renewable energy sources, youth employment and training were also on the agenda.

He called for “an intelligent use of standards and labeling schemes”, adding that the UNIDO initiated ISO energy-efficiency management system standard ISO 50001, as an emerging requirement to demonstrate enterprise-level energy efficiency.

UNIDO supports laboratories in Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute and the Textile Training and Services Centre, which have provided training to countries in the region, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Maldives, Pakistan and Vietnam.

 

JAFFNA HIGH SECURITY ZONE TO BE RELAXED

In a move to restore complete civil administration in the Jaffna Peninsula, the Resettlement Ministry recently said certain parts of the Jaffna High Security Zone (HSZ) have been identified for resettlement. The Ministry has instructed Jaffna Government Agent K. Ganesh to discuss resettlement in the Jaffna HSZ with the security authorities and make preliminary arrangements to resettle the people.

According to Resettlement Ministry Secretary M.B. Dissanayake, the Ministry has given complete freedom to the Jaffna Government Agent to discuss with the authorities and obtain permission to resettle people in the Jaffna HSZ.

Dissanayake said resettlement will be carried out in Thellippalai, Kopai and several other areas in the western parts of the Jaffna HSZ provided the Defence Ministry approves it. Army Spokesman Brigadier Ubaya Madawala told the Daily News that discussions about resettling people in the Jaffna HSZ is going on.

“Figures are yet to be decided but plans are under way to resettle people in certain areas in the HSZ,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Hathurusinghe told the Daily News that resettlement of people can only be done after the de-mining process is completed.

“The de-mining process in the Jaffna HSZ is continuing. We have to ensure that the area in which these people are to be resettled are free from mines and booby traps,” he added.

(Source: Daily News)
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One Response to “UNHCR MARKS PROGRESS IN SRI LANKA — REFUGEE PROTECTION NO LONGER NECESSARY -Scaling Back Operations in Batticaloa”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    It’s good to read of praise from the UN. We hope this will truly counteract UN Sec.Gen’s moves to form a Panel on HR issues, and that he will withdraw his attempts to do so, allowing Lanka to progress on a path of peace & prosperity for all its citizens.

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