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Troubled beginning for the released Tamil refugees

world Updated: Mar 28, 2010 18:49 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The Sri Lankan government claims to have resettled more than 1.9 lakh displaced Tamils. But for thousands of the resettled the problems are far from over; a release from military-guarded camps hasn’t exactly translated into a new, bright beginning.

For one, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sri Lanka has suspended the distribution of shelter cash grants to displaced returnees due to shortfalls in funding, latest UN report said last week.

The funding, the report added, was suspended from the 8th of this month.

"The level of services decreased at the beginning of March due to funding gaps, the report said, adding that shelter agencies were challenged to secure funds for and build permanent housing in a timeframe corresponding with the pace of returns.

Earlier this month, HT had reported how both the remaining refugees and the resettled were complaining how food and other donations had been cut.

Another unique problem is being faced by women who have been released from the camps.

"There is an increasing number of returnee households headed by women as a result of the death of their husbands, or as a result of detention of their husbands in rehabilitation centres. This group is the most concerned about security in the return areas, including the fear of crime, especially in remote areas,’’ the UN report said.

It added that the lack of closed sanitation facilities in areas of return contributes to the women'sfeelings of insecurity, as they are forced to reach isolated and possibly hazardous
locations to protect their privacy.

Those released from the camps have also reported that while registering with the local army and police, they encounter questions on possible LTTE affiliations, despite screening process in the camps.

Additionally, language barriers have also affected relations between the newly settled communities and local army and police forces.

Returnees continue to report general satisfaction in being back in their home areas rather than in IDP camps. However there remain substantial concerns about livelihoods and access to basic services in return areas. UNHCR continues to monitor the challenges faced by returnee communities, particularly vulnerable groups.