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More Lankan refugees returning home from India

There is an increase in the number Sri Lankan refugees returning home from camps in Tamil Nadu, latest statistics with the United Nations (UN) has shown. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Oct 23, 2010 17:49 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

There is an increase in the number Sri Lankan refugees returning home from camps in Tamil Nadu, latest statistics with the United Nations (UN) has shown.

This is being seen as the result of the civil unrest having ended 17 months ago and no violent incident being reported since then.

Earlier this week, a group of 67 people who had escaped from north-eastern Sri Lanka as fighting escalated between Tamil separatists and government troops returned home with the help of the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).

"This group, which was staying in a camp in Tamil Nadu, arrived two days ago. They had approached the UNHCR in India for help. We received them at the airport and gave them a small travel grant," an UNHCR official told HT on Saturday.

After reaching their native district of Trincomalee, the individuals would be given UNHCR-sponsored relief pack with essentials like cooking utensils and plastic sheets.

Earlier this month, UNCHR deputy representative, Jennifer Pagonis, quoting Indian government statistics, told Sunday Observer that till end-July 2010, there were 71,654 Sri Lankan refugees living in 112 camps and 32,467 living outside.

"The latest figures from Jan - September 30 show that 1,280 refugees returned voluntarily from India with UNHCR facilitated returns compared to 843 in all of 2009," Pagonis told Sunday Observer.

"Also this year, over 1,000 refugees approached UNHCR offices in Sri Lanka to report that they had returned on their own accord - (spontaneous returns). The number of refugee returns are increasing and UNHCR thinks this trend will continue," Pagonis said.

According to latest UNHCR statistics a total of 146,098 Sri Lankan refugees live in 64 countries. India, France, Canada, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Malaysia, Australia, the United States and Italy are the top 10 countries hosting Sri Lankan refugees.

Internally, less than 19000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) now remain in camps in the northern district of Vavuniya.

At the end of the war in May, 2009, nearly 300000 Tamils were displaced by the fighting. Most have been allowed to return to their places of origin.