The 1,000th Sri Lankan refugee returned home early this week from Tamil Nadu in India along with a group of 49 Sri Lankan refugees (11 families), the UNHCR said.
“The number of refugees arriving back home in Sri Lanka is rising slowly and could increase further over the next half-year with the recent launch of the Tuticorin-Colombo ferry service,” UNHCR Representative Michael Zwack said.
There are also some 2,800 Sri Lankan refugees in India and some in other countries who have expressed an interest in returning in the near future, he said.
According to UNHCR’s half-year statistics, a total of 962 Sri Lankan refugees returned home compared to 852 refugees in the same period last year. In 2010, a total of 2,540 refugees returned.
A majority of the returns are taking place from refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, India with small numbers from other countries such as Malaysia, Georgia and the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia.
Most refugees have returned to Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna. Smaller numbers are returning to Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Ampara and Colombo Districts.
Sri Lankan refugees returning under UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme receive a standard reintegration grant, as a first step towards helping them restart their lives. Once at their destination in Sri Lanka, these returnees can approach one of UNHCR’s five offices in the north and east to obtain a kit of basic household supplies.
Sri Lankan refugees abroad who wish to return home can approach the closest UNHCR office in their country of asylum. Once the request is processed, they are provided with an air ticket to Sri Lanka and assisted to obtain relevant travel documentation.