Operation: Sri Lanka
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|2020 year-end results|
|1,210||households received multipurpose cash assistance to meet basic needs|
|208||refugees departed for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the USA, the United Kingdom and Finland, through resettlement and complementary pathways|
|198||refugee returnees received reintegration grants|
|143||refugee children were enrolled in primary education|
|2021 planning figures|
|4,000||refugee returnees will receive cash assistance|
|1,400||refugee households will receive multipurpose cash assistance to meet basic and essential needs|
|500||vulnerable refugees will depart on third country resettlement|
|130||refugee children will be provided with access to primary education|
People of Concern
Operational contextSri Lanka hosted 1,011 refugees and 228 asylum-seekers in 2020. With the onset of the COVID-19 and resulting curfews, UNHCR faced challenges in ensuring that the needs of asylum-seekers and refugees were met. The ability of people to seek asylum in Sri Lanka was also adversely affected by the closure of the airport from March 2020. However, UNHCR ensured that refugees were provided with cash assistance and vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers received dry food rations and necessary medication. UNHCR and IOM facilitated a health hotline that enabled refugees to receive medical advice, follow-up and public health information. UNHCR successfully advocated inclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers as a vulnerable group in the UN’s guidance for socioeconomic response to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. UNHCR also adapted its assistance programmes to the pandemic, and supported 143 refugee children to access primary school online and 1,031 adults with skills development activities.
Registration, refugee status determination and resettlement interviews commenced remotely. UNHCR provided personal protective equipment supplies, worth USD 83,482, to Government counterparts and partners.
The airport closure from March 2020 due to the pandemic negatively impacted the ability of Sri Lankan refugees in India seeking to return home. Some 207 refugees returned in the first quarter of the year, prior to the travel restrictions, 196 of them facilitated by UNHCR. Returnees benefited from limited Government housing and livelihood support, and UNHCR provided cash assistance and access to legal advice on housing, land and property in order to anchor return for sustainable reintegration.
UNHCR advocated access to Government schools for asylum-seeker and refugee children, and access to legal work for adults including returnees.
Population trendsSri Lanka hosted 228 asylum-seekers (38.6% female) and 1,011 refugees (38.2% female) in 2020, all living in urban areas in Western Province. The imposition of visa restrictions for particular nationalities, increased vigilance after the terrorist attacks of 21 April 2019 and the airport closure in March 2020 resulted in a 76% decrease in new arrivals in 2020 compared to 2019, and only 58 (32.8% female) new registrations. UNHCR completed refugee status determination for 221 individuals, of whom 176 were recognized as refugees.
The airport closure also impacted refugee repatriation with 213 Sri Lankan refugees returning home from India, 196 of them facilitated by UNHCR. Meanwhile, 25,013 IDPs remain without solutions.
- UNHCR successfully included refugees and asylum-seekers as a vulnerable group in the UN Advisory Paper: Immediate Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka.
- UNHCR provided personal protective equipment, sinks, sanitizing products and equipment to 8 hospitals and 7 schools which are attended by refugees.
- Psychosocial support was provided to 510 refugees and asylum-seekers through virtual counselling sessions.
- The health hotline instituted with IOM served 1,253 individuals with information, medical advice and follow up.
- 100 vulnerable refugee returnee families received targeted support to income generation.
- Refugee and asylum-seeker children were not able to attend secondary school as they lack access to Government schools and cannot pay fees for private facilities.
- Asylum-seekers did not receive systematic assistance and struggled to survive as they cannot work legally and are detained if caught.
- Refugee returnees had limited shelter and livelihood support.