UNHCR urges Sri Lankan refugee awareness of new land regulations

Monday 26 September 2011

UNHCR urges Sri Lankan refugee awareness of new land regulations COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is urging Sri Lankan refugees abroad to make themselves fully aware of new procedures aimed at resolving land documentation and property ownership issues in Sri Lanka’s north and east.

“It is important for Sri Lankan refugees to inform themselves as soon as possible about these new measures so they don’t risk losing out on claiming or re-registering land and property,” said UNHCR’s Representative in Sri Lanka Michael Zwack. “Although the circular primarily focuses on state land, some provisions may have implications for private land as well, including properties belonging to people still in
displacement and Sri Lankan refugees overseas,” he added.

The procedures were introduced by the Sri Lankan Government in a circular titled ‘Regulating the Management of Lands in the Northern and Eastern Provinces’ in July 2011. It outlines the process in which land and property claims/ disputes and documentation issues in the northern and eastern provinces will be handled.

UNHCR welcomes the circular as a positive step towards resolving complex land/property issues facing many internally displaced and refugee families returning to their villages in former conflict areas of the north and east. However, UNHCR considers several provisions in the circular require further clarification and that an awareness campaign in English, Tamil and Sinhala languages is necessary to reach all those affected whether they are currently in Sri Lanka or abroad.

According to UNHCR’s most recent statistics at the end of 2010, there are some 141,063 Sri Lankan refugees in 65 countries. The majority of refugees live in Tamil Nadu, in neighbouring India, with 69,998 Sri Lankan refugees residing in 112 government-run camps and 32,467 living outside the camps.

The land circular document in English and Tamil can be downloaded from the links below: