Sri Lanka


Operation: Opération: Sri Lanka



Latest update of camps and office locations 21  Nov  2016. By clicking on the icons on the map, additional information is displayed.

Key Figures

2016 end-year results
4,000 acres of land in High Security Zones were released for returning IDPS, including 749 acres in Jaffna in 2016 alone, with more than 3,000 families in the process of returning
850 Sri Lankan refugees voluntarily repatriated from India through UNHCR’s programme, and additional 49 refugees, known to UNHCR, returned spontaneously
460 individuals departed for resettlement, surpassing the number in 2015
2017 planning figures
100% of asylum-seekers will be registered and will undergo refugee status determination process on an individual basis
97% of school-aged children will be enrolled in primary education
95% of refugee households whose basic and domestic needs are met
25% of refugees aged 15-59 will have access to IT and language education
1,500 refugee returnees will be assisted with cash grants for onward transportation and reintegration to and in their return areas

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2016 54,409
2015 55,290
2014 33,170


[["Refugees",604],["Asylum-seekers",576],["IDPs",39730],["Returned IDPs",12445],["Returned refugees",1054]]
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Sri Lanka

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2016 {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"budget":[17.74172832,10.25360214,8.99170517,7.662461469,6.38291893,5.61943885],"expenditure":[9.15739251,6.5175268,5.90226048,5.12725408,3.41199388,null]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[10.1191169,7.68964019,7.65152409,6.274272789,5.54807908,5.55927245],"p2":[0.06872361,0.11339244,0.07574243,0.11979917,0.04578361,0.0601664],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[7.55388781,2.45056951,1.26443865,1.26838951,0.78905624,null]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[4.76108042,5.49141794,4.87465761,3.87863457,2.79903947,null],"p2":[0.03930597,0.07555571,0.0605343,0.04603959,0.0371832,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[4.35700612,0.95055315,0.96706857,1.20257992,0.57577121,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017

Working environment

Throughout 2016, the overall protection environment remained stable with asylum-seekers and refugees enjoying basic protection and access to health services.
General improvements were observed in the return environment, including continued land release, availability of certain forms of the government assistance and more welcoming messaging from the Government resulting in larger number of voluntary repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees.
The Government made a major achievement in adopting the National Policy on Durable Solution for Conflict-Affected Displacement, with support by UNHCR through the UNCT. With this milestone, UNHCR concluded its work on internally displaced people (IDPs) following decades of engagement.  

Population trends

  • 604 refugees were registered with UNHCR by the end of 2016, dropped from 784 refugees at the beginning of the year. The number of asylum-seekers also decreased to 576 individuals.
  • UNHCR registered some 280 people of concern in 2016. The majority of asylum-seekers (70 per cent) originated from Pakistan. 

Achievements and impact

  • Some 337 resettlement cases were submitted and some 459 individuals departed for third countries – mainly to Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States of America.
  • Approximately 98 refugee children benefitted from support to access primary education.
  • UNHCR facilitated the voluntary repatriation of some 852 Sri Lankan refugees from India.
  • UNHCR focused on the work related to Housing, Land and Property, and through its partner followed up on 103 community level land cases, affecting more than 27,060 families, in coordination with relevant government departments.
  • 7,400 beneficiaries benefited from legal counselling sessions on land issues.
  • UNHCR supported capacity building in the area of the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), through conducting 10 SGBV awareness sessions benefiting about 484 government officials to strengthen the quality of their service delivery.  

Unmet needs

  • Asylum-seekers and refugees are not allowed to work in Sri Lanka. Asylum-seekers do not receive any systematic support, and the small amount of subsistence allowance extended to refugees is not sufficient to meet their basic needs.  
  • Lack of access to public (primary and secondary) education for asylum seekers’ and refugee children continued to be a serious concern.  
  • Challenges remained for sustaining the return of Sri Lankan refugees, including securing sources of livelihood, accessing basic services, establishing housing land and property rights and regularizing civil documentation. 

Operational context and population trends

Presidential and parliamentary election in 2015 brought to power a new Government in Sri Lanka. The new Government committed to address the durable solution needs of the remaining IDP population, as well as returning Sri Lankan refugees. As an immediate step, the Government released portions of land (High Security Zones and Economic Zones) in the North and East, enabling the resettlement of more than 2,500 IDP families. In 2015, UNHCR noted a marginal increase in the number of IDP and refugee returnees interested in returning to their areas of origin, and in anticipation of continued Government support, the number of refugee returnees is expected to increase in 2016. Planning in 2016 has been designed strategically to take into consideration UNHCR’s disengagement from IDP-related activities – an area of intervention that UNHCR has been involved in for the last 28 years. 

In 2015, Sri Lanka continued to provide access to people seeking asylum. In the latter half of 2015, UNHCR observed an increase in the number of arrivals in the country and will continue to monitor the situation. 

UNHCR will continue to encourage the Government to ratify both Statelessness Conventions. According to estimates, around 30,000 Sri Lankan refugees living in India lack citizenship. In 2016, UNHCR will conduct a study to assess the remaining number of individuals who are either stateless or who lack the necessary citizenship documentation. 

In 2015:
  • On average, 40 asylum-seekers arrived in Sri Lanka on a monthly basis, increasing sharply to an average of 60 in the second half of the year;
  • In total, 478 individuals were registered as of mid-December;
  • 608 asylum-seekers and 784 refugees received protection and assistance services; 
  • Resettlement departures were confirmed for 357 individuals and 505 individuals were submitted for resettlement;
  • 3,817 IDPs and IDP returnees (1,026 families) were assisted through various interventions (i.e. livelihoods, land, housing and property assistance, etc.); 
  • A total of 452 individuals (207 families) returned from India through UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme.

Key priorities in 2016

  • Strengthen UNHCR’s collaboration with key government counterparts, the UN Country Team and development actors to ensure timely interventions, maintain the protection space and ensure reintegration support to the remaining IDPs through development agencies;
  • Continue to support the comprehensive durable solutions strategy for the resettlement and reintegration of IDPs in cooperation with the Ministry of Resettlement;
  • Support the return of 600-1,200 refugees who wish to return to Sri Lanka, in coordination with relevant line ministries;
  • Continue to strengthen the capacity of government counterparts (national, legal and administrative institutions) on land, housing, property and documentation issues as part of the resettlement and reintegration strategy;
  • Provide education assistance to 150 primary school age refugee children, 90 secondary school age refugee children (to be enrolled in English language classes), as well as monthly monetary assistance to 1,200 refugees;
  • Train relevant government officials, service providers and other stakeholders to raise awareness and bolster their technical capacity in relation to people of concern;
  • Pursue protection monitoring and other protection interventions, including strengthening the overall SGBV prevention and response mechanisms;
  • Commission a study to validate and assess the situation for the remaining individuals at risk of statelessness;
  • Continue enhancing the protection space and durable solutions for urban-based asylum-seekers and refugees through advocacy, registration, documentation, RSD and resettlement interventions by applying community and age, gender and diversity (AGD) based approaches.