The United Nations refugee agency said Friday a second team of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is scheduled to arrive today in Sri Lanka. The team of four includes specialists on community services, protection and other essential field functions.
About 400 people returned yesterday to a village in the Mannar district, which was for a long time the front line between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
There are totally about 3,000 refugees have registered to return to 15 villages in Mannar over the coming weeks, as part of the first Government-organized return operation in the northern embattle area of Sri Lanka for many years.
In advance of the returns, UNHCR has already sent five experts to this area in February and March to assess conditions. The agency said that mine clearance had been completed for receiving refugees returning.
UNHCR welcomes these returns as a positive development, agency spokesman Willian Spindler said today in Geneva. While the number of those returning to their homes is still small, it is an important starting point. We hope that returns to other areas in northern Sri Lanka will also be possible soon,” he added.
According to the UNHCR field monitoring team, the refugees said that they are keen to return, but worried about their houses and how to make a living once back home.
The UNHCR said they will provide each family a return package including a tarpaulin kit to construct a tent-shape shelter upon arrival as well as jungle clearing tools.
Over the coming days, the agency will distribute household items inside the return area, including mosquito nets, mats, water containers and hurricane lamps. It will also repair hundreds of houses, the agency said.