Sri Lanka: A hidden displacement crisis
A cyclone hits the return areas in northern Sri Lanka where people who had been displaced by the armed conflict continue to live in make-shift shelters constructed from old tin sheets and tarpaulins several months after their return. (Photo: NRC/October 2012)
- Country Statistics
- Latest IDP figure:
- More than 93,000
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- Number of refugees:
- (Originating from the country)
136,605 (UNHCR, as of December 2011)
- Total Population:
- 21.2 million (UNFPA, 14 November 2012, p.114)
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31 December 2012
Hundreds of thousands of current and former IDPs in Sri Lanka remained in need of protection and assistance as of the end of 2012, more than three and a half years after government forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. More than 93,000 people were still living in camps, with host communities or in transit situations. Of more than 480,000 people who had returned to Northern and Eastern provinces, many are still to achieve durable solutions.
At the end of September 2012, the Menik Farm displacement camp, where around 225,000 Tamil IDPs were interned in June 2009, was closed. Of more than 1,300 IDPs still living in the camp in September, 560 were unable to return to their home areas because they were occupied by the Mullaitivu Security Force headquarters. Instead they were relocated, many of them against their will.
Military occupation of land is preventing around 26,000 people from returning across the north and east of Sri Lanka, and it is estimated that more than 3,000 people have been relocated, in many cases involuntarily.
Many returnees faced challenges in accessing their basic humanitarian needs such as shelter, water and sanitation during 2012. Displaced and returning communities also required livelihood assistance, social support, legal assistance and psycho-social care in recovering from the effects of the conflict. The assistance provided was inadequate to meet the needs. The presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance also continued to complicate the recovery of livelihoods. As of the end of the year, clearance operations were ongoing in both livelihood and residential areas, with 108 km2 of land still in need of demining.
In December 2011 the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommended a reduction of the military presence and the demilitarisation of the administration. A year later, however, the number of troops in Northern province was still high, and the military continued to compete economically with small businesses run by conflict-affected people who were trying to become independent of aid. It also reportedly cultivated crops on land which IDPs had been told they could not return to.
The military continued to engage in activities that fall within the remit of a civil administration, including the authorisation of community meetings or events, and the registration of civilian families in many northern villages, whether they had been displaced or not. Female-headed households reported feeling particularly insecure as a result of military visits. Protracted Tamil IDPs in the Northern Province and in Trincomalee have been unable to return to land that the military is occupying, and to date they have received no support towards a durable solution.
Land issues, which were at the core of the conflict, remained unresolved as of the end of 2012. No policy had been established to address the many and complex housing, land and property issues caused by multiple and protracted displacement. This has prevented many IDPs from achieving durable solutions.
Although they have registered as having returned to the north, many Northern Muslim IDPs continued to live in their places of displacement in Puttalam or between the two locations, the result on the one hand of there being no assistance to support returns and on the other of obstacles to local integration.
Sri Lanka still has no legislation governing IDPs’ protection. A bill drafted by the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in 2008 had not been taken forward as of December 2012. The development of a policy and/or legislation on displacement is part of the government’s action plan on the protection and promotion of human rights for 2011 to 2016, but the timeframe for its completion had not been met and no information as to progress was available.
The national budget prioritised defence over the ministries responsible for dealing with recovery from the war, and largescale infrastructure projects were favoured over measures that might address the assistance needs of IDPs and returnees.
The military leadership continued to control the approval of humanitarian projects in the north through its membership in the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province (PTF). The PTF places particular restrictions on the provision of mental health care and psycho-social activities. Because of government restrictions, no comprehensive assessment has been conducted in conflict-affected areas, and there is no comprehensive data on the needs of the most vulnerable groups. No IDP profiling has been done since 2007. The government, UNHCR and the UN Office for Project Services launched a survey of protracted IDPs in 2011, but the project was abandoned in December 2012 due to obstacles placed on it by the PTF.
At the end of the year, the UN cluster system was phased out as the international response shifted from humanitarian to development interventions, despite continuing humanitarian needs on the ground. International funding for both areas of activity was significantly reduced.
IDPs wanting to return faced with difficulties
(7 September 2011)
More than two years after the defeat in May 2009 of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, the government has reportedly kept some IDPs’ areas of origin closed for return for reasons of national security
. In nine localities in Puthukkudiyiruppu and Maritimepattu in Mullaitivu District, humanitarian demining organisations were yet to start
mine clearance activities in late July because the government had not given them access. 15 localities in Tellippalai in Jaffna District also remained closed.
Many among the more than 9,000
IDPs remaining in Menik Farm camp originate from the closed areas in Mullaitivu, as do others among over 57,000
people still living with host communities. The government is preparing to relocate
them to Kombavil in Mullaitivu, even though most of the IDPs would reportedly prefer
More than three years after the end of the 26-year armed conflict between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), nearly 470,000 people displaced during its various stages have returned to their home areas. This does not mean, however, that there is no internal displacement in the country any more. As of the end of September 2012, more than 115,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were still living in camps, with host communities or in transit sites, or had been relocated, often against their will, to areas other than their places of origin.
Among those registered as having returned, many have not been able to achieve a durable solution but continue to face difficulties in accessing basic necessities such as shelter, food, water and sanitation, in rebuilding their livelihoods, and in exercising their civil rights. De-mining operations are still ongoing in livelihood areas. Unresolved land issues have been a major obstacle to durable solutions for IDPs and IDP returnees.(...)
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31 October 2012
||A hidden displacement crisis (31 October 2012) HTML | PDF
Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes, Background and Patterns of Movement","Overview of the causes of displacement in Sri Lanka"
"IDP Population Figures","Numbers of IDPs in Sri Lanka"
"Displacement before April 2008","Displacement before April 2008"
"Physical Security and Integrity","Physical Security and Integrity"
"Basic Necessities of Life","Basic Necessities of Life"
"Property, Livelihoods, Education and Other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights","Property","Livelihoods","Education and Other Economic","Social and Cultural Rights"
"Family Life, Participation, Access to Justice, Documentation, and Other Civil and Political Rights","Family Life","Participation","Access to Justice","Documentation","and Other Civil and Political Rights"
"Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age, Gender, Diversity, Minorities)","Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age","Gender","Diversity","Minorities)"
"National and International Responses","National and International Responses","National and international responses","Reference to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement","Recommendations"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Report of the Secretary-General's Internal Review Panel on United Nations action in Sri Lanka, United Nations Secretary General (UN SG), November 2012
- National Plan of Action to Implement the Recommendations of the LLRC, Government of Sri Lanka, 26 July 2012
- Sri Lanka's North II: Rebuilding under the Military, International Crisis Group (ICG), 16 March 2012
- Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation, Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation, 16 December 2011
- Land in the Northern Province: Post-War Politics, Policy and Practices, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), 6 December 2011
- Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, United Nations Secretary General (UN SG), 31 March 2011
|Documents and recent reports|| |