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Cablegate: Idp Update: Significant Progress with Challenges

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OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHLM #1112/01 3380501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 040501Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0924
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2123
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9157
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7403
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5277
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3555
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5208
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0076
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0743
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4325
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9718
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7009
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0064
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3879
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001112

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: IDP UPDATE: SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS WITH CHALLENGES
AHEAD

COLOMBO 00001112 001.3 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Large numbers of returns of internally
displaced persons (IDPs) over the past several months and
recent advances in freedom of movement policy are very
encouraging. The returns process will continue to be
complex, however, and long-term reintegration may present new
challenges. The U.S. should continue to press the GSL for
increased information sharing and coordination with
international actors so our partners can provide appropriate
support for GSL-led returns initiatives including return
movements and demining. The returns package meets basic
needs but may require adjustment, particularly longer-term
food rations for those who have missed planting seasons.
Rehabilitation of ex-combatants, and permission for ICRC to
take on a key role in rehabilitation, continues to be a
priority. END SUMMARY.
MANIK FARM: REDUCED NUMBERS, INCREASED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. (SBU) IDP returns have eased overcrowding in Manik Farm,
with the total population dropping from approximately 230,000
in August to approximately 125,000 at the end of November. A
USAID fact-finding mission to the North on November 23-25
found that people no longer had to wait in long lines for
health services or water collection, nutrition indicators had
improved, and flooding had not been a problem as previously
forecast. But the departure of those providing services,
such as teachers at temporary learning centers, had impacted
service delivery. Firewood for cooking was in short supply.
IDPs seemed optimistic about the GSL's plan to return
everyone by the end of January 2010.

3. (SBU) The Government of Sri Lanka's (GSL's) new freedom of
movement policy went into effect on December 1. UN sources
estimated that 9,000 or more people left Manik Farm that day,
despite considerable confusion over implementation and
procedures. While news reports on numbers vary widely, the UN
reported that approximately 80 percent chose to come back to
the camp that night. Some indicated they did not want to
miss out on transportation or returns packages by traveling
on their own. According to authorities' explanations to an
INGO monitoring Zone 4 that day, there was no limit on how
long IDPs could remain outside the camp, they could bring
belongings with them, and they could bring items back into
the camp with them as long as they were not restricted
material (e.g. cell phones). IDPs, however, believed they
could leave only for seven days and were confused about
bringing materials out of or into the camp. The exit
application required signatures from three officials. IDPs
were under the impression that application forms had to be
photocopied, while authorities said handwritten applications
were acceptable. While IDP movement was generally
unrestricted once they left the camp, they could not visit
other camp zones except through a special pass, as previously
required. The Zonal Commander and Area Commander indicated
to the INGO that they would clarify the procedures through
the camp PA system to avoid further confusion.

RETURNS: EARLY SUCCESS, CHALLENGES AHEAD
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) There has been significant progress on returns, with
approximately 150,000 returns to date, including
approximately 23,000 to former LTTE areas. Most returns were
to areas best able to support them, however, and many
returnees were staying with host families or transit camps
rather than in their original homes. The bulk of returnees
went home to the districts of Jaffna, the East, southern
Mannar and parts of Vavuniya not heavily affected by the
conflict. Among those in temporary locations, some could not
return home because of security concerns and some were from

COLOMBO 00001112 002.3 OF 003


areas in the Vanni not yet open for returns. USAID officials
emphasized that IDPs from the interior of the Vanni would
face a more difficult reintegration at home than those from
other areas. Long under LTTE control, this area now lacks
government services such as health and education. It is
heavily mined, and in the rush to prepare for returns, much
has simply been designated dangerous. An estimated 50-70,000
people, mainly from Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu, will likely
remain in Manik Farm for a variety of reasons even after
organized returns operations have been completed.

RETURNS PROCESS: IMPROVED COORDINATION NEEDED
---------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) There appears to be some lack of coordination
between the GSL and the UN in the returns process. Lack of
timely information on how many people would return where and
when forced the International Organization for Migration
(IOM) to scramble to provide appropriate transport, and the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to
supply non-food items rapidly. To better support upcoming
returns, the World Food Program (WFP) was establishing hubs
in the Vanni (Malawi, Mullaithivu District, and Kilinochchi
Town). WFP planned to pre-position food at the hubs for
easier access to distribution points at returns destinations.

6. (SBU) GSL and INGO demining organizations coordinate
their efforts through monthly meetings, but INGOs are not
engaged in developing the national demining strategy. INGOs
and the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) work in separate areas assigned
to them by the GSL and do not have input into, or knowledge
of, an overall strategic plan. U.S. INGO partners report
pressure to complete their work unrealistically quickly in
order to meet GSL returns timelines. INGOs have expressed
some concern that SLA demining operations do not adhere to
international standards, but have not closely evaluated SLA
operations. Two PM/WRA-funded technical experts are now
in-country assessing SLA demining capacity prior to a
potential U.S. contribution of demining equipment and/or
training. Mine risk education (MRE) is also essential,
especially where IDPs return to communities where minefields
have only been demarcated and not cleared.

REINTEGRATION UPON RETURN: ASSISTANCE REQUIRED
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (SBU) IDP returns packages may require adjustment to meet
actual needs. Returnee families are eligible for a shelter
grant of Rs 25,000 (about USD 220) per family, a UNHCR NFI
kit, a UNHCR kitchen set, and UNICEF hygiene kit, roofing
sheets from the GSL and Government of India (GoI), an
agricultural tool set from the GoI, 3 days of cooked meals
provided by the GSL and six months of food rations from WFP.
In a November 21 press release, the GSL announced that it
would increase the shelter grant to Rs 50,000 (about USD 438)
as of December 15. But a United Nations source reported that
in a meeting with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) earlier
this week, the PTF said it had not yet approved -- or
seriously considered -- implementing the increase and the
public announcement had been made without its concurrence.
According to a UN housing expert, repairing a severely
damaged home would cost around USD 1,500 to repair, but Rs
50,000 (about USD 438) would be a positive step in addressing
immediate needs. It should be noted that the "shelter" grant
is actually a cash transfer, so returnees may choose to use
it on non-shelter priorities (and early indications are that
some returnees are doing so). Food assistance may also
require adjustment from earlier expectations. USAID officers
noted that many returning IDPs missed the Maha planting
season and may miss the subsequent Yala season, and thus

COLOMBO 00001112 003.3 OF 003


would have to rely on rations for significantly longer than
six months, possibly up to 16 months. The GSL indicated to
the UN that all national NGOs could access the North, and
INGOs with national partners would also have access to
returns areas. This would allow for reintegration
programming such as livelihoods, protection and community
development.

8. (SBU) Both short- and long-term solutions for
ex-combatants are keys to Sri Lanka's long term stability.
The GSL is holding over 11,000 ex-combatants in 17 closed
camps, awaiting individualized legal review of their cases.
ICRC does not have access to the camps. USAID staff were
permitted to visit some of the camps and noted overcrowding
and the need for health services, particularly psychosocial
counseling. IOM provides technical assistance to the
Ministry of Justice to develop the National Action Plan and
Framework to profile and register detainees, with USAID
support. Ex-combatants now in rehabilitation programs will
require support reintegrating into their communities upon
completion of their program in early 2011. The GSL's
National Action Plan for the Reintegration of Ex-Combatants
into Civilian Life calls for USD 75 million over six years.
The U.S. currently supports a portion of this plan through
IOM.

COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) As returns increase and camp populations decrease,
the U.S. may consider shifting aid from camp-based services
to returns and reintegration support. But some support,
particularly on protection issues, may still be crucial for
the residual population in the camps. The GSL appears to be
making a good faith effort to support returns and ease
restrictions on IDPs, which is encouraging. We should
recognize the progress made so far while also urging the GSL
to increase coordination with the international community,
permit ICRC's engagement, and follow through on its
commitment to allow NGO access to returns communities.
FOWLER

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