UNHCR to phase down operations in Sri Lanka
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will phase down its operational role in Sri Lanka. Responding to the statement made by the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha at the 63rd Session of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR on Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres observed that "the operational role of the UNHCR in Sri Lanka will be phased down for many of the reasons that were elaborated upon in the Ambassador's statement". The Ambassador Ariyasinha noted that "in contrast to the considerable difficulty and gloom in the humanitarian crises that continue to engulf many parts of the world today, Sri Lanka's recent achievements provide confidence and hope."
He highlighted the considerable progress the country has made a little over three years - in IDP resettlement, de-mining, re-integration of ex-LTTE combatants, the shrinking of the high security zones, increase of economic growth in the Northern Province and operationalization of LLRC recommendations.
Responding to Ambassador Aryasinha's comments, Guterres said the "UNHCR will continue to be committed to supporting voluntary repatriation of some of the refugees of Sri Lanka from India, as well as with the resettlement of the remainder of the internally displaced in their places of origin."
Ambassador Aryasinha said that those who downplay the significance of Sri Lanka's post-conflict achievements and constantly keep shifting goal posts, show disrespect not only to Sri Lanka and its international partners whose steadfast commitment to this task has made these achievements possible, but also to those who have at last emerged from the suffering caused by 30 years of terrorist conflict."
The Ambassador said that Sri Lanka remains ready to share its experience and best practices in post-conflict resettlement and rehabilitation with the international community, and looked forward to strengthening the ongoing cooperation between the UNHCR and member states.
Menik Farm, the last welfare centre for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)s was closed down in late September.
"This is a milestone event towards ending a chapter of displacement in Sri Lanka some three years after the civil war which ended in May 2009," United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Subinay Nandy said following the closure of the centre.