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Cablegate: Update On Key Idp Protection Issues

VZCZCXRO8683
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHLM #1148/01 3510517
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 170517Z DEC 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0998
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2189
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9213
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7463
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5312
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3616
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5238
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0102
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0773
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4360
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9773
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7064
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0094
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3928
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 001148

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON KEY IDP PROTECTION ISSUES

COLOMBO 00001148 001.6 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Civilian population displacement issues in
Sri Lanka have evolved rapidly over the last several months.
Key protection issues identified most recently by the
humanitarian community in Colombo include freedom of
movement, transferred displacement, de-mining and
demarcation, single-headed households, a need for the
re-training for persons with disabilities, NGO access,
infrastructure and services, land and property restitution,
information sharing with IDPs, continued militarization of
the North, the complications of returning "old IDPs," and the
possibility of forced returns. END SUMMARY.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
-------------------

2. (SBU) As of December 6, the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over 158,000
IDPs had returned to their homes or been released to host
families. Approximately 126,000 remained in camps. The
protection issues detailed below were identified as
priorities through a donor update meeting hosted by UNHCR and
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on December 8,
a Human Rights Group meeting of donors, UN agencies and NGO
presenters on December 9, and conversations with humanitarian
aid actors over the past week.

3. (SBU) The Government of Sri Lanka's (GSL) new freedom of
movement policies may come with caveats. UNHCR reported that
IDPs in some districts were told that if they did not return
within 10 days they would be dropped from assistance rolls
and/or ineligible for assisted returns, whereas Assistant
Secretary Blake was told by Major General Gunaratne,
Commander, Security Forces (Wanni) and Competent Authority
for IDPs, at Manik Farm on December 8 that there was no limit
on how long departees could remain outside the camps.
December 10 marked the end of a 10 day period for the first
group of departees, and UNHCR will monitor how many people
come back and any repercussions for those who overstay their
time outside the camps. IDPs who receive exit passes are not
permitted to visit other camps except under the previous
visitation site policy. Some individuals have been denied
passes, presumably based on suspected LTTE associations.

TRANSFERRED DISPLACEMENT
------------------------

4. (SBU) Many people counted as "returnees" are actually
currently with host families and may be without a durable
solution until at least mid-2010. Humanitarian actors
emphasized the importance of maintaining a distinction
between returns to places of origin and "returns" to sites of
continued displacement. IDPs would have differing assistance
and protection needs depending on their returns status.
UNHCR had developed a policy on what types of assistance
would be provided to the different groups and urged the donor
community not to forget about the longer term needs of those
still in limbo. According to UNHCR, 90 percent of the 69,000
returns to Jaffna over the last two months were to host
families. The main obstacles to returns to original homes
included incomplete demining, homes in inaccessible high
security zones, houses that had been destroyed during the
war, and land ownership titling issues. Other Jaffna-born
returnees were waiting to return to the Vanni where they had
settled for years previous to their most recent displacement.
In Mannar, 89 percent of those recently surveyed by an INGO
were with host families.

DEMINING AND DEMARCATION
------------------------


COLOMBO 00001148 002.6 OF 003


5. (SBU) In addition to the threats returnees face when
returning to areas not fully demarcated, the UN cannot access
areas lacking demining certification, and thus returnees must
walk long distances, often through mined areas, to transit
centers to pick up food and other assistance. Lack of UN
presence in many areas also limits protection monitoring.
Lack of demining in many paddy fields prevents farmers from
planting and leaves them without a livelihood. While some
advocates continued to call for mine risk education, one INGO
representative noted that IDPs from the Vanni had been
educated about mines for years and that accidents would stem
less from lack of awareness than the necessity of earning a
living.

SINGLE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS
------------------------

6. (SBU) The war, subsequent disappearances, and large
numbers of persons held in detention centers had left many
people, primarily women, heading households on their own.
Many were only recently on their own and had not yet
developed coping strategies. Some women did not yet feel
capable of returning and preferred to stay in camps. Some of
those who did return felt vulnerable in isolated areas
without electricity, or ill-equipped to rebuild their homes
on their own. Gender-based violence and exploitation has
been reported in the camps and could also surface in returns
areas. IDPs had also reported considerable anxiety about
separated family members, making family reunification an
important part of recovery.

RETRAINING FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Land-mine accidents and other war-related violence
had left a large population of amputees and other disabled
persons. They would need assistance developing new skills and
livelihoods.

NGO ACCESS
----------

8. (SBU) NGOs and INGOs still lacked adequate access to
returns areas. While some INGOs have recently been granted
access to work in the health sectors, others have had their
applications for work in returns areas denied by the
Presidential Task Force (PTF). The Sri Lankan Consortium of
Humanitarian Agencies had circulated guidelines entitled
"Collaboration between Government and NGOs in North Sri
Lanka" regarding selection of INGOs for approval and
collaboration requirements, but INGOs had not received the
guidelines directly from the PTF and it was unclear whether
the PTF has approved them. In addition to playing an
important role in protection monitoring, INGOs could bring
specialized services such as trauma recovery and
physiotherapy if granted access.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES
---------------------------

9. (SBU) Many returns areas lack infrastructure, school
systems, health care, transport vital to emergency medical
care and other services. UN agencies were working to ensure
a smooth transition from relief to development activities.

LAND AND PROPERTY RESTITUTION
-----------------------------

10. (SBU) As returns increase, so will property disputes in
particular, as some of the more long-term IDPs begin to

COLOMBO 00001148 003.12 OF 003


return to areas more recently occupied by others. Rule of
law and transparency in the judicial system will be essential
to resolving disputes, particularly where parties lack
documentation.

INFORMATION SHARING WITH IDPS
-----------------------------

11. (SBU) While the GSL had greatly improved the returns
process by providing the International Organization for
Migration advance notice of organized returns, the IDPs
themselves were still excluded from the process. IDPs were
asked to be on standby for organized returns for up to a
week. They were given insufficient detail about conditions
in their areas of origin to make informed decisions about
returning.

DE-MILITARIZATION
-----------------

12. (SBU) In some areas, particularly Kilinochchi, the
military maintained a strong presence and sometimes occupied
civilian homes. Interlocutors reported slow
demilitarization. High security zones continued to bar some
returns as well.

PREVIOUS IDPS
-------------

13. (SBU) The GSL has taken a new interest in the "old IDP"
caseload of approximately 300,000 who were displaced before
August 2008. On December 7, Resettlement Minister Bathiudeen
announced that the GSL would begin returning Muslim IDPs from
the Northern Province back to their homes on December 26. An
estimated 65,000 to 72,000 Muslim Sri Lankans were expelled
from the Northern Province by the LTTE in October 1990. They
have lived in displacement for the last 19 years, mainly in
camps in Puttalam. The GSL had indicated that it would like
UNHCR to extend its support, which now targets post-August
2008 IDPs, to this caseload. UNHCR's budget provided only for
the "new IDPs." In UNHCR's view, the newer group was
generally more vulnerable as it had not had access to
livelihoods in camps. However, UNHCR did recognize that
there were vulnerable IDPs among the older group too, and
would consider supporting them based on funding availability
and donor input.

POTENTIAL FOR FORCED RETURNS
----------------------------

14. (SBU) One humanitarian advocate opined that political
pressure could prompt the GSL to close Manik Farm completely
before all IDPs had safe, viable destinations for return.
The GSL could simply force returns and decline to continue to
recognize IDPs or it could move people to transit camps in
Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Some felt transit camps would be
preferable, but there is currently little humanitarian access
to these areas.

15. (SBU) COMMENT: While recent GSL policy changes may be in
part politically motivated as the election draws near, they
are nonetheless welcome improvements. As IDPs move from camps
to home or transferred displacement, the focus of those
providing assistance will also shift, while continuing to
provide for any residual population in the camps. Post will
continue to monitor and report on protection issues. End
Comment.
BUTENIS

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