Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: UN, NGOs call for quicker access to resettlement communities

News and Press Release
Originally published
COLOMBO, 25 May 2007 (IRIN) - The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in Sri Lanka - a grouping of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - has welcomed government efforts to resettle some 90,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Batticaloa West, in the east of the country, and ensure such returns are "wholly voluntary and take place in safety and with dignity".

The IASC statement "urges the government to speed up access for international aid agencies to the villages in West Batticaloa so they can monitor conditions and carry out relief and early recovery programmes aimed at sustainable return."

The return process began on 14 May. By 21 May 19,336 IDPs from 6,040 families had been resettled, the government said.

The IASC said an inter-agency mission to Vellavelly - the division in Batticaloa West where the first resettlements have been taking place - found "the majority of people wished to return home and that the area was conducive to return".

However, it warned: "Agriculture-based livelihoods and sustainable food security will pose challenges" so the government should expedite mine and munitions clearance to ensure safety for children and farmers.

The IASC also cited the importance of IDPs being fully informed about resettlement plans and said: "It is essential that the return process be civilian in character to allay fears concerning the heavy presence of security forces, strengthen confidence and motivate return." It suggested the need for "Go and See Visits" for IDPs who have anxieties about returning home, a civilian grievance redress mechanism that can address the complaints of returnees, and wider information-sharing by the government.