May 10, Colombo: Sri Lanka observing international law is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in finding countries to resettle about 1000 refugees, State Minister Eran Wickramaratne said.
Speaking in the parliament on Thursday, the State Minister of Finance said there are 1698 asylum seekers in Sri Lanka currently and of them 869 have already been cleared as refugees in this country. Another 440 are not qualified refugees and they will be repatriated out of Sri Lanka within the next few weeks.
He said the information about the refugees is available with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and defense authorities.
Out of the cleared people 460 have already been accepted by the US, 7 by the UK, 3 by France and 162 under the private sponsorship program of the Canadian government. Further 234 have already been submitted for clearance.
The State Minister said the Sri Lankan government is observing international law and systematically looking at it with the UNHCR in finding countries to resettle about 1000 refugees, mostly Afghan and Pakistani refugees.
"These people have come here as religious and ethnic minorities. They are cleared by the defense authorities and therefore, we need to look at them as people who are fleeing the persecution from their own country," the Minister said.
"Therefore, this is nothing to panic about. We must understand this and provide them with necessary security and get them out of the country," the Minister said.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has sought international assistance to remove Afghan and Pakistani refugees from the country. Speaking to diplomats in Colombo, earlier this week the President said there are over 1600 refugees in Sri Lanka from other countries and that with the current situation in the country he is unable to ensure their security.
Meanwhile, several humanitarian organizations including the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have appealed to the UNHCR and the Sri Lankan government to provide the protection for the refugees who were evicted from their homes in the wake of Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.