Over 20,000 still not resettled

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says 26,721 Internally Displaced People (IDP) have been identified by the Ministry of Resettlement as still requiring resettlement. The vast majority of these IDPs are unable to return to their places of origin because their homestead and agricultural land continues to be used by the Security Forces.

NRC, which formally announced it was moving out of Sri Lanka in June this year, says there are significant humanitarian needs in the North and paramount obstacles for durable solutions for the IDPs remain in the East and North.

Toril Brekke, NRC’s  Secretary General, said that while it is admirable that Sri Lanka with the support of humanitarian and development partners has been able to assist between 500,000 – 700,000 persons to register as returned in their places of origin, it is important to remember that physical return in itself is not the end to the specific assistance and protection needs of internally displaced persons who continue to struggle to re-establish their lives, livelihoods and to access their civil, economic and social rights.

She said that insecurity in the form of restrictions to civil rights and freedom of movement has been identified as the overriding obstacle, followed by a lack of access to effective mechanisms that restore housing, land and property, a lack of effective remedies for displacement-related violations including difficulty accessing justice and inadequate standard of living, lack of adequate housing, water and sanitation.

“NRC is sad to be leaving the country while such a large number of persons still have no end in sight to their displacement, including communities that NRC has worked with over the years in the Trincomalee and Jaffna camps,” she said.

Brekke said that given the complexities surrounding land and identifying durable settlement solutions for remaining IDPs as well as the cost involved in assisting so many to establish in alternative locations, NRC believes that voluntary return to areas of origin would be the easiest solution for the Government to administer and the most feasible.

“NRC believes that coordination and collaboration among all stakeholders on issues affecting resettlement and durable solutions is key to overcoming some of the challenges that the communities face and NRC is encouraged by the concern and energy demonstrated by the Ministry of Resettlement to take this forward. While the country is in the process of responding to needs that reach beyond the conflict affected North and East, there still remain clear regional disparities caused by the unaddressed concerns of the IDPs and former IDPs in the North, East and West,” she added.

Brekke said that it is important that Sri Lanka invests time and resources in gathering systematic information on what the remaining obstacles are for those internally displaced by the conflict. (Colombo Gazette)