May 16, Colombo: A report published by the Norway based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has stated that the level of internal displacement in Sri Lanka is estimated to be up to 90,000 persons five years after the end of the war.
The IDMC's flagship annual report The Global Overview 2014 states that based on data gathered from January to December 2013, the IDMC's latest assessment has recorded up to 90,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka by end 2013.
The report released on 14 May said, since the end of Sri Lanka’s internal armed conflict in 2009, the government has reportedly moved several thousand IDPs to permanent relocation sites, often without their voluntary or fully informed choice in the matter.
It recorded that over 480,000 IDPs have returned to the Northern and Eastern Provinces, after the war end, though specific measures were considered necessary to facilitate the returnees.
According to the report the Ministry of Resettlement in December 2013 has recorded 23,568 IDPs while the UNHCR figure in December 2012 was 93,447. Civil society organizations (CSO) have recorded 38,000 IDPs in May 2013.
The report says neither the government nor the CSO figure covers all locations and all groups of IDPs. No figures have been made available since December 2012 for those who have returned, integrated locally or settled elsewhere.
The IDMC report said in Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of returnees are still in need of housing, water, sanitation, livelihoods and food. The widespread presence of the military and ongoing surveillance also serves to undermine the return process, it said.
It has further recorded that the State occupation of land had prevented the return of at least 30,000 IDPs living in protracted displacement during the assessment year (2013).
Out of the 30,000, about 20,000 IDPS lived with host communities, another 7,000 in camps while the rest have been relocated, not always voluntarily.
The report has also highlighted that tens of thousands of Muslims expelled from the North by the LTTE in 1990 have registered as having returned, though in reality, most of them were still living in their places of refuge in Puttalam or alternating between Puttalam and the North, largely for the want of adequate assistance.
With regard to policy, IDMC has noted that Sri Lanka published a draft policy in 2013on internal displacement, but it fell short of international standards, in particular because it failed to cover all phases and causes of displacement.
The report noted the absence of comprehensive legislation on IDPs in Sri Lanka and identified the need to have a 2013 draft policy by the Resettlement Ministry revised, in order to bring it in line with international standards.
It has also identified the need for long-term funding to rebuild IDPs' lives, which has suffered also due to the shifting of focus by international organizations from humanitarian to development work.
"Longer-term funding and support for protection work is much needed if current and former IDPs are to rebuild their lives," it said.
According to the report, there is a lack of independent and comprehensive data on IDPs and their needs, but it is hoped that a joint needs assessment scheduled for 2014 will address this to some extent. The government and its international partners are to conduct a joint needs assessment, but its scope is still to be determined.