Ferry returns of Sri Lankan refugees from India due to start Wednesday

Briefing Notes, 11 October 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 October 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is expecting the first returns of Sri Lankan refugees by commercial ferry from India to start on Wednesday, 12th October. The returns are part of a voluntary, facilitated repatriation programme, supported by the governments of both India and Sri Lanka. A welcoming ceremony at Colombo port is planned with Sri Lankan government officials, port and shipping authorities and UNHCR.

Until now, all refugee returns to Sri Lanka have been by air. The numbers returning in this first 'trial run' are small 37 individuals representing 15 families. However, the return by sea is significant as UNHCR is hearing from Sri Lankan refugees in India that many are waiting for ferry returns in order to transport their household possessions with them. Each person can bring up to 150 kilogrammes of belongings.

The commercial ferry link between the port of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, India and Colombo in Sri Lanka reopened earlier this year paving the way for refugees to return by sea instead of air.

Since the conflict ended in May 2009, Sri Lankan refugees have been steadily returning back to their home country, mainly from India with a few from other countries. Over 1,400 refugees have returned so far this year, compared to 2,054 refugees in 2010.

UNHCR's facilitated voluntary repatriation programme assists refugees who tell us they want to return home. The main reasons they give for return is that the conflict has ended, and that they wish to reunite with family and friends and claim their land. Refugees tell us the major problems they face on return to Sri Lanka have been earning a living, and finding shelter.

UNHCR assists refugees once they return with a reintegration grant and transport allowance to help them get back home.

According to Indian government figures, some 69,000 Sri Lankan refugees are living in 112 camps in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

UNHCR's most recent statistics show there are 141,063 Sri Lankan refugees in 65 countries, with the majority in India, followed by France, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, the United States and Italy.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Sri Lanka, Sulakshani Perera on mobile: +94 777 272 494
  • In Geneva: Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

South Sudan: No Home To Return ToPlay video

South Sudan: No Home To Return To

Philip and his family fled from their home in the South Sudan town of Bor last December and found shelter in the capital, Juba. Recently they decided to return home, despite the risks. It took three arduous days to get back, but then they got there they found that their home had been destroyed.
Mali: Waiting to ReturnPlay video

Mali: Waiting to Return

After spending months in the central Mali town of Mopti, hundreds of displaced families are anxious to go back to their homes in the north. But security is still a concern.
Mali: Giving Help Play video

Mali: Giving Help

While thousands wait to be able to return to northern Mali , aid agencies continue helping the displaced.