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2012 UNHCR Country Operations Profile

Sri Lanka

by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, accessed April 19, 2012

In 2012, UNHCR will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to IDPs and returnees. As a result of the overall decline in the IDP population in the country, the operation will move from an IDP operation towards a refugee returnee operation. It will be of particular importance during this transitional phase to ensure that durable solutions are found for particular groups of persons who remain displaced, and that land and property issues are addressed.

It is expected that the number of facilitated voluntary returns of Sri Lankan refugees -- mainly from India -- will increase significantly.

Statistical snapshot as of January, 2011

SEE BELOW FOR CURRENT FIGURES

Residing in Sri Lanka  
Refugees 223
Asylum Seekers 138
Returned Refugees  5,062
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) 273,772
Returned IDPs 161,128
Stateless Persons  0
Population of Concern in Sri Lanka 440,323
Originating from Sri Lanka  
Refugees from Sri Lanka 141,074
Asylum Seekers from Sri Lanka 8,603
Total Population of Concern 589,639

 

Joint Plan for Assistance Northern Province 2012 - Government of Sri Lanka & UNHRC

Working environment

The context

UNHCR offices Sri Lanka 2012

Sri Lanka has seen a steady improvement in security in 2011, two years since the end of the 26-year-long conflict between Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. At the same time, the operational environment has been shifting from humanitarian relief to early recovery and development. These trends are expected to continue in 2012.

By the end of August 2011, the majority of internally displaced persons (IDPs) -- some 395,00 persons -- who had been displaced during the course of the conflict, had returned to their homes. The remaining IDPs who are still in camps or with host communities are expected to return in 2012. It is anticipated that the improvement in security will also spur an increase in the voluntary return of Sri Lankan refugees from abroad in the coming years.

Significant challenges still face both the displaced and returnees, however. In the north and east, the demining of residential zones in return areas has not yet been completed. Much agricultural land still remains to be cleared, particularly in what constituted forward areas in the war. Still, work is under way to re-establish infrastructure and essential services to ensure that those returning to their homes are able to restart their lives in safety and dignity.

Some IDPs, mainly in the Jaffna and Vavuniya districts in northern Sri Lanka, are still unable to return home even after their lengthy displacement, and are living with host communities. UNHCR continues to seek durable solutions for these and other IDPs having fled their homes prior to April 2008, who number some 90,000 throughout the country. This complex situation requires adequate measures by the Government if it is to be resolved.

The number of asylum-seekers and refugees in Sri Lanka is expected to remain stable, but the search for durable solutions will continue to be challenging. Even though in a transitional phase, humanitarian assistance will continue to be needed in Sri Lanka in the years ahead, in order to support the country's mid- to long-term shift from relief to early recovery and development.

The needs

As the protection cluster lead, UNHCR has direct access to beneficiaries in all return areas in the north. Although fulfilling the humanitarian and protection-related needs of IDP and refugee returnees remains the main priority, UNHCR will provide some assistance to community-based development activities. It will also help build the capacity of national institutions and local NGOs involved in returnee reintegration and recovery.

UNHCR is one of the main providers of humanitarian assistance to IDPs and returnees in Sri Lanka. Its shelter grant project is widely appreciated by the returnees, and will continue to help them restart their lives. The shelter grant registration process provides an invaluable opportunity for UNHCR to collect baseline protection information, monitor returns, and identify the specific protection needs of returning families, particularly the most vulnerable.

Providing basic non-food items (NFIs) is another priority, along with the implementation of quick-impact projects (QIPs) to help communities re-establish themselves and meet their needs for livelihood support.

With the increase in the number of Sri Lankan refugees expected to return in 2012, UNHCR will boost assistance by providing reintegration support and addressing particular issues related to return. These include assistance in recovering civil documentation and preventing statelessness for Sri Lankans born abroad.

UNHCR 2012-2013 planning figures for Sri Lanka

TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN TOTAL IN COUNTRY Jan 2012 OF WHOM ASSISTED
BY UNHCR Jan 2012
TOTAL IN COUNTRY Dec 2012-Jan 2013 OF WHOM ASSISTED
BY UNHCR Dec 2012 - Jan 2013
TOTAL IN COUNTRY Dec 2013 OF WHOM ASSISTED
BY UNHCR Dec 2013
[1] These figures indicate the number of IDPs who are expected to return during the course of the year.
Refugees Various 220 220 270 270 290 290
Asylum-seekers Various 200 -- 100 -- 100 --
Returnees (refugees) Various 21,300 15,000 30,000 25,000 30,000 25,000
IDPs Various 156,000 156,000 81,000 81,000 13,000 13,000
Returnees (IDPs) [1] Various 118,000 118,000 75,000 75,000 68,000 68,000
Stateless Various -- -- 2,000 2,000 3,000 3,000
Total 295,720 289,220 188,370 183,270 114,390 109,290

 

Main objectives and targets for 2012

Favourable protection environment

IDPs, returnees and refugees benefit from individual protection interventions designed to advocate and monitor their rights.

  • Regular protection monitoring is undertaken in places of displacement, return and relocation, and consultations are held with 7,000 people.

Fair protection processes

The provision of civil status documentation is advocated and supported.

  • Some 5,000 people are provided with support to obtain civil status documentation.

Durable solutions

IDPs achieve durable solutions through return, local integration and relocation.

  • About 90 per cent of remaining camp-based new IDPs return voluntarily to their areas of origin.

Voluntary repatriation of refugees from India and elsewhere is facilitated.

  • Approximately 25,000 refugees are assisted to repatriate voluntarily.

Resettlement to third countries is facilitated for registered refugees.

  • Some 80 refugees are assisted to depart for resettlement to third countries.

Strategy and activities in 2012

In 2012, UNHCR will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to IDPs and returnees. As a result of the overall decline in the IDP population in the country, the operation will move from an IDP operation towards a refugee returnee operation. It will be of particular importance during this transitional phase to ensure that durable solutions are found for particular groups of persons who remain displaced, and that land and property issues are addressed.

It is expected that the number of facilitated voluntary returns of Sri Lankan refugees -- mainly from India -- will increase significantly. These returnees will benefit from a reintegration and transportation grant and NFI assistance. The number of spontaneous returns is expected to decline as awareness of the facilitated return process increases. UNHCR will also boost advocacy to grant formal citizenship to refugee returnees who are stateless.

UNHCR will strengthen its protection monitoring presence and its activities in support of civil society and national protection mechanisms. Protection activities and community-based QIPs will underpin activities in 2012 and beyond. They will serve to make returns more secure, improve livelihoods and self-reliance, and minimize protection risks in communities with a mix of IDP and refugee returnees.

Assistance to IDP returnees will be phased out as they re-establish their livelihoods and development actors expand their activities to fill gaps. However, it may be necessary for UNHCR to continue to provide assistance to IDPs remaining in open camps and welfare centres.

UNHCR will conduct refugee status determination (RSD) in accordance with its mandate, and assist recognized refugees to find durable solutions. Refugees are not allowed to integrate locally or work in Sri Lanka, and UNHCR continues to advocate for these rights. As very few refugees choose to repatriate, resettlement remains the primary durable solution for them. Since this option is limited in scope, refugees tend to stay in Sri Lanka for lengthy periods, facing a range of difficulties.

Constraints

Access for humanitarian organizations has become easier in comparison to previous years, but the operational environment will continue to be challenging in 2012, both for the UN as well as international and national NGOs. This may hamper UNHCR's operations, especially if there is limited access to some areas for NGO partners. As Sri Lanka moves towards early recovery and development, funding is expected to decrease for humanitarian work, even though substantial challenges remain. The most pressing unmet needs will exist among the long-term displaced. It will be essential to have the support of development partners to ensure durable solutions for this group.

Organization and implementation

Coordination

UNHCR will maintain close links with government ministries and the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province. It will gradually hand over its lead role in shelter and NFIs to early recovery actors, but continue to provide the necessary guidance and leadership, particularly with respect to protection.

Cooperation with other relevant actors will endeavour to ensure that assistance gaps beyond UNHCR's mandate are quickly addressed. For instance, UNHCR's Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank provides the latter with return and protection monitoring information, triggering the release of World Bank funds for recovery and reconstruction.

Financial information

Financial requirements for Sri Lanka have decreased considerably since the conflict ended in May 2009, and targeted humanitarian assistance has stabilized the situation in the post-conflict period. In 2012, refugee returns are expected to increase and IDP returns to decline, resulting in corresponding budgetary adjustments. UNHCR's budget for Sri Lanka has declined from USD 27.2 million in 2011 to USD 17.7 million in 2012.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2012-2013