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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2612

Sri Lanka's displaced need greater assistance, urges un refugee official

New York, 16 July, (Asiantribune.com): A senior United Nations refugee agency official has urged the Sri Lankan Government to step up its efforts to aid the displaced by allocating land and allowing them to move out of welfare centres they have been living in for over two decades.Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins (centre) meets a group of displaced children in Batticaloa district. (Photo - P.Sivarajasingham, UNHCR)Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins (centre) meets a group of displaced children in Batticaloa district. (Photo - P.Sivarajasingham, UNHCR)

Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations of the United Nations High Commission foe Refugees, met with top Sri Lankan officials this week to discuss the Government's return programme in the east of the South Asian country.

She called on the Sri Lankan government to double its efforts to allocate land to displaced people and allow them to move out of the welfare centres they have been living in for more than two decades.

While visiting Vavuniya in the country's north, Ms. Cheng-Hopkins reviewed UNHCR programmes to provide assistance in relocation and local integration. She traveled to the Thattankulam relocation site, where the agency has helped 130 families settle after years of residing in welfare centres, as well as Kalmadu, where another site is being prepared.

She urged the Government to provide more land for such relocation sites to be built, stressing that 312,000 people have been similarly displaced for decades and need assistance.

In the last three months, nearly 100,000 people have returned to their homes in Batticaloa district after fleeing earlier this year from heavy fighting between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

After visiting returnees in Batticaloa, Ms. Cheng-Hopkins called on the Government to ensure the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and that returns are voluntary and sustainable.

Improvements in health care, education and employment opportunities in areas to where IDPs return is crucial, she added.

According to the UN, clashes in Sri Lanka between Government forces and the LTTE have now affected 3 million people. Over the past year and a half, some 4,000 people are estimated to have died in the fighting.

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