The UN has said that while the pace of Tamil refugees returning to their homes has accelerated in Sri Lanka, the condition of the temporary camps in which the remaining continue to be is deteriorating.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told journalists that in the past two weeks alone, an estimated 39,000 people have returned to their former villages - mostly in the north and east of Sri Lanka - as part of the Government's resettlement plan.
Agencies quoted Mahecic as saying in Geneva that another 16,500 people were released from the camps and were being accommodated with host families. This group, he added, included pregnant women and elderly persons. A number of persons with disabilities have also been released to specialised care institutions.
About 163,000 displaced Tamils now remain, Mahecic said, adding that conditions inside those camps are deteriorating.
"UNHCR and other UN agencies continue to advocate strongly with the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite the return of all remaining IDPs [internally displaced persons] to their areas of origin in safety and dignity and in line with international standards," he said.
"We also continue to advocate for the full freedom of movement for those who are not able to immediately return to their homes or stay with friends and relatives once the ongoing phase of the return is complete."
The refugee statistics handed out by the Sri Lankan government differs by a few thousands. The total number of IDPs remaining in camps in Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee was 1,53,021.
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, minister for disaster management and human rights said last week that the total number of IDPs resettled was 91999. The total number of refugees resettled was 119687, he added. The accelerated pace of resettlement, according to the government, was endorsed by UN Under-Secretary-General Sir John Holmes who called the resettlement process as 'significant' and 'encouraging'.