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Sri Lanka: Guterres notes decline in displacement ahead of Geneva peace talks

Briefing notes

Sri Lanka: Guterres notes decline in displacement ahead of Geneva peace talks

21 February 2006

High Commissioner António Guterres says in a press release issued this morning that a recent decline in displacement prior to the scheduled start of Sri Lankan peace talks here in Geneva tomorrow (Wednesday) reflects the desire of the Sri Lankan people for an end to conflict and continued progress toward stability in their island nation.

Mr. Guterres notes that UNHCR has seen the number of Sri Lankans fleeing regional insecurity, both internally and to India, diminish in the weeks leading up to the Geneva talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He also notes that the marked decline in violence since the announcement of talks has had a very positive effect on reducing the pressure on Sri Lankans to flee their homes and said he believes this trend also reflects the high expectations of those in conflict areas for the peace talks.

Since mid-December, UNHCR has monitored the flight of nearly 6,000 displaced families from the Jaffna Peninsula and the eastern district of Trincomalee who left their homes as security worsened. The displaced are either staying with friends and relatives in neighbouring districts - putting enormous strain on host families - or have sought asylum in southern India's Tamil Nadu state. Over a two-month period, nearly 500 Sri Lankan refugees fled to Tamil Nadu, where they are housed at Mandapam Camp in Ramnathapuram District. But the number of new arrivals began dropping sharply this month following the announcement of the upcoming Geneva peace talks.

UNHCR has been working with the Government of Sri Lanka since 1987 to find durable solutions for the 800,000 people displaced in the country's 20-year civil war. Since the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002, more than 400,000 people displaced by the conflict have returned home, while another 325,000 remain displaced.