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Sri Lanka: UNHCR concerned over deteriorating situation in east

Briefing notes

Sri Lanka: UNHCR concerned over deteriorating situation in east

9 January 2009

UNHCR is concerned over the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka's east following a significant increase in the number of killings, abductions and injuries in areas of return during the last few months. In November alone, the United Nations recorded 24 civilian deaths in the Batticaloa district.

We're also worried about the negative impact these security incidents may have on the sustainability of the return process. Most of the more than 200,000 people displaced during fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) in the eastern districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa have returned home over the past two years. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have been supporting the government in reintegration programmes, principally in shelter and quick impact community based livelihood programmes and through the provision of non-food relief items.

But returnees in the Batticaloa area report they increasingly feel intimidated and face restrictions on their movement, which limits their ability to support themselves and their families. More than 50 families have already left their villages in some of the return areas in Batticaloa due to fear and insecurity. Others are no longer sleeping in their own homes, but gather several families in one house at night. UNHCR calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to effectively investigate these security incidents and urges the relevant authorities to provide adequate security to all civilians living in these areas.

We are also concerned over the abduction of four refugee returnees from India in the Trincomalee district. UNHCR is heartened by the fact that more than 1,500 Sri Lankan refugees returned from camps in Tamil Nadu in southern India in 2008, either spontaneously or with our facilitated voluntary return programme. We are keen to see this positive trend continue this year.

UNHCR is also closely monitoring the rapidly developing situation in Sri Lanka's north, where some 250,000 people remain displaced due to the ongoing conflict.