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Sri Lanka: Drop in refugees shows progress, peace

Drop in refugees from Sri Lanka shows progress towards peace: UN official

Ahead of Wednesday’s peace talks on Sri Lanka between Tamil Tiger separatists and the Government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that the drop in the number of Sri Lankans fleeing regional insecurity showed that all people on the island want an end to the 20-year conflict.

Quoting High Commissioner António Guterres, a UNHCR spokesperson said that since the talks were announced the number of Sri Lankan refugees arriving in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state had fallen “sharply” this month, reflecting both a desire for peace and continued progress toward stability on the island.

Mr. Guterres said that a decline in violence had reduced the pressure on Sri Lankans to flee their homes and that the trend also reflected the high expectations of those in conflict areas for the peace talks.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lanka’s Government agreed to hold the talks, which will take place in Geneva, last month and these will be the first direct discussions between the two sides since April, 2003.

UNHCR has been working with the Government of Sri Lanka since 1987 to find durable solutions for the 800,000 people displaced by the 2-decade civil war, which has also claimed some 60,000 lives. Since a Ceasefire Agreement in 2002, more than 400,000 people displaced by the conflict have returned home, while another 325,000 remain displaced.

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