Colombo: Sri Lankan Tamils should no
longer automatically qualify for refugee status in other lands
following a "greatly improved situation" in their country, but
their condition does not yet warrant a total "cessation of
refugee status", United Nations refugee agency has said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in
its new report that Sri Lankans originating from the north of
the country are no longer in need of international protection
under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of
protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm.
The report titled `Eligibility Guidelines for
Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers
from Sri Lanka`, released on Monday attributed its new
assessment due to improvement in the human rights and security
situation since the end of the three-decade-old war.
The war against the LTTE peaked last year, destroying
the Tigers` northern stronghold, and forcing lakhs of people
to flee from their homes.
"In light of the improved human rights and security
situation in Sri Lanka, there is no longer a need for
group-based protection mechanisms or for a presumption of
eligibility for Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity originating
from the north of the country," the UNHCR report states.
It also noted that the end of the armed conflict has
resulted in reduction in the number of Sri Lankans seeking
international protection in industrialised countries.
During the period from January to June 2010, 2,947
asylum applications have been registered ? compared to 4,573
applications registered during the same period in 2009 ?
representing a 35 per cent decrease, the report said.
However, it said the situation though improved is far
from normal and that claims by Sri Lankan asylum seekers
should be considered on their individual merits.
"UNHCR considers that the current situation in Sri
Lanka, although significantly improved in the last 12 months,
does not yet warrant cessation of refugee status on the basis
of Article 1C(5) of the 1951 Convention.
"Claims by persons suspected of having links with the
LTTE may, however, give rise to the need to examine possible
exclusion from refugee status," the report states.
The security situation in Sri Lanka had significantly
stabilised, paving the way for a lasting solution for hundreds
of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the
country`s north and east, the report said.
"Many of the initial restrictions on the freedom of
movement of IDPs have been lifted," it said.
The UNHCR report said about 2.46 lakh persons had left
displacement camps to return to their places of origin or live
with host families, relatives and friends.
Restrictions on freedom of movement have also been
eased due to the improved security situation, it says.