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* UN welcomes resumption of IDP returns in Sri Lanka following pause during election
Tue, Apr 27, 2010, 07:18 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 27, Colombo: The United Nation's refugee agency today welcomed the resumption of returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by the Sri Lankan government following a temporary pause due to the parliamentary elections and the New Year holidays.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic at a press briefing today, in Geneva said that the government had returned some 7,000 IDPs to Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts since resuming the resettlement process.

According to the spokesman around 207,000 IDPs have left the government run welfare villages since the resettlement process started last August. They have either returned to their original homes or to relatives.

Following the end of hostilities in May 2009, 280,000 IDPs have been sheltered in the welfare camps in Vavuniya and Jaffna.

The UNHCR provides each returning family with a shelter cash grant of 25,000 rupees ($US 220 ) through the state Bank of Ceylon to rebuild their lives . More than 40,000 families had already received the cash grant by March.

The spokesman said the grants were temporarily suspended last month due to a shortfall in funds. The UNHCR will be restarting the grants by the end of this month, he said. About 10,000 families who have returned to their original homes are yet to receive the assistance.

The agency says still there are another 82,000 people from about 25,000 families in the camps or with the host families, mainly in the Menik Farm area to be returned this year and it needs more funds for those families who are expected to return in the coming weeks and months.

The UNHCR continues to distribute other relief aid such as plastic mats, mosquito nets, clothing, and jungle clearing tools to the returnees, the spokesman said.

The refugee agency says many returnees, especially widowed women, face difficulties to find livelihoods upon their return. They also face challenges in obtaining certain types of documentation, such as death certificates for their deceased husbands that are needed to receive widow's allowances and governmental assistance.

The camps are hosting less than one third of the original IDP population now, easing the pressure on the health, food and water services, the UNHCR spokesman said.

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