Refugee return figures decline in first half

The number of Sri Lankan refugees returning home with UNHCR’s help declined during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period last year.

The latest statistics show that 662 individuals voluntarily returned to Sri Lanka with UNHCR’s help during the first six months of this year to end-June, nearly a third less than the same period in 2011 when 962 refugees returned.

A total of 1,728 Sri Lankan refugees returned under UNHCR’s facilitated voluntary repatriation programme in 2011.

“It is difficult to determine why the numbers of refugees returning to Sri Lanka have fallen,” says UNHCR Representative in Sri Lanka Michael Zwack. “It is an individual decision to return home based on individual considerations,” he added.

The overwhelming majority of refugees are returning from Indian government-run refugee camps in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu with a handful returning from Malaysia, Georgia and Hong Kong.

The refugees are mainly returning to Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna districts with smaller numbers returning to Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Colombo, Mullaitivu, Puttalam and Kandy.

According to UNHCR’s statistics at end- 2011, there were 68,152 Sri Lankan refugees living in 112 camps in Tamil Nadu and another 32,467 living outside the camps. Worldwide there are more than 136,000 Sri Lankan refugees living in 65 countries.