(Vikalka photo: Sinhalese IDPs in Panama)
[Ministry of Prison reform, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu religious Affairs – Report on national policy on durable solutions for conflict affected displacement ( 3rd Draft) 7th April 2016]
It is imperative that the Government sets out a time frame for expediting resettlement and ensure that the bulk of the displaced find a durable solution with a settlement option of their choice within this period. The following are some of the major obstacles which need to be addressed and resolved as a matter of urgency, if this objective is to be achieved.
- Release and Return of Land Occupied by the Military and Police to their Original Owners/Former Occupants.
The Ministry of Defence in coordination with the Ministry of Law and Order must ensure that an accurate mapping is made of all land that is or was owned, claimed or used by civilians and is currently occupied by any of the three security forces –army, navy or air force – or by the police. All such lands, particularly private land, should be released and returned to civilian use and ownership urgently, unless the State determines that it is required for public purpose. This purpose, be it national security or development, should be carefully scrutinised, including to ascertain that no alterative land can be found for the stated purpose. This also means, interalia, releasing land that is being used by the military for purposes not related to security including but not limited to agricultural production, tourist enterprises, or recreation. It must be ensured that land that is released is made safe from unexplored ordnance or other sources of danger, and returned in a state that can be used by former residents and owners for their residential or economic pursuits.
- Land claimed by Other Government Departments and Authorities.
There are a number of cases where government departments and authorities, including but not limited to the Forest Department, Wildlife Department, Archaeology Department, Mahaweli Authority, and Urban Development Authority, have demarcated lands for governmental usage that were formally owned and occupied by persons now in displacement, sometimes, without consulting district and provincial level authorities or adequately informing those affected. It is imperative that the relevant Ministries take steps to address this practice and to take corrective measures to ensure that the land and property rights of those being prevented from returning to their land and/or property are recognized.
Where government departments or authorities have gazetted or otherwise laid claim to land belong ing to displaced persons, these cases need to be reviewed in consultation with district-level authorities in a transparent manner, and where possible the land must be restored to the rightful owner.
- Reparations for Acquired Land and Property.
In exceptional cases if IDP land and property is required for public purposes , then this land will be acquired as per the existing laws.
Those affected must be accorded their full rights in accordance with Sri Lankan law and national standards, including the NIRP. The owners/former occupants of that land and property must receive acceptable alternative land, and/or appropriate compensation for their lost land/property. For persons who have to relocate, needs such as shelter and livelihood should be met, access to essential services should be provided and social integration issues should be addressed.
- Addressing Land Claims and Disputes.
In addition to land problems highlighted in Section VII–1&2 above, and despite the significant work to address land claims and disputes, there are a number of lingering cases in the North and East that need to be resolved, especially those relating to state land. A key step is to ensure public awareness about land rights and any state process to address land claims. Immediate measures are required to resolve these protracted land disputes so as to avoid their festering and exacerbation, particularly those that are between communities. This issue needs to be taken up by appropriate Ministries including Justice and Land with the advice of district and provincial level actors.
- Addressing the Landless.
Displaced persons and refugee returnees who never owned land, or who were made landless as a result of the conflict, need a solution, particularly if the last remaining Welfare Centres are to be closed down. Landlessness also affects persons who are currently occupying land of displaced persons or encroaching state land and can be legally evicted.
As in other parts of the country, programmes addressing landlessness should be carried out in the North and East in a comprehensive manner and in consultation with the Ministry of Land and district and provincial actors.
- Recognising displaced populations and providing accurate data.
Given the policy of the previous Government of not recognising specific displaced populations and the continuing problems of identifying such populations, it is imperative that the MOR undertake actions to ensure that populations/families who continue to be displaced are recognised and registered. MoR data should be comprehensive, up-to-date, accurate and dis-aggregated.
There may be additional populations who do not fit the criteria of displaced but who continue to be vulnerable, are struggling to find durable solutions, and/or who are attempting to secure their rights ; they need to be identified. Communities and families who were denied the basic resettlement assistance package or where their basic infrastructure needs have not been met need to be targeted through humanitarian and development programmes. The MoR may find it necessary to undertake a rapid resettlement programme while working with other ministries, district and provincial level actors.
An example of this is ensuring that extremely poor displaced people are included among the categories of vulnerable when the Social Services Ministry determines Samurdhi beneficiaries.
- Facilitating Refugee Returns.
Policy decisions and actions need to be taken to address key problems faced by refugees who are attempting to return. This includes, inter alia, outreach and information campaigns to refugee communities abroad,facilitating the provision of key identification documents, assisting refugees to transport goods and personal possessions acquired in exile, ensuring that refugee returnees will
be eligible to receive the same types of assistance that are available to IDP returnees, ensuring that educational and professional qualifications earned abroad are recognized where applicable including for school admission requirements, and that security screening programs are conducted without undue delays.
Targeted assistance programmes, including for livelihoods and for social integration, need to be developed.
Refugee returns are likely to continue over a period of several years and will extend beyond the period targeted for ending internal displacement. While the Ministry of Resettlement will play an active role in this task, including in ensuring more effective monitoring of refugee returnees at the district level, it will require the assistance of other ministries including Education, Health and Social Services amongst others.
- Provision of Shelter and Basic Infrastructure.
Given the continuing gaps in terms of temporary and permanent shelter the Ministry will introduce programmes to address both sets of needs. Temporary shelter is required in areas that have been and will be released. While there have been a number of permanent housing projects, there are continuing needs across the North and East that need to be urgently addressed.
Affordable housing must be provided in consultation with the affected communities. As noted in Section IV–3.5, the beneficiary selection process needs to be fair and transparent.
Priority assistance must be given to vulnerable groups including the persons with disabilities, female-headed households and the elderly. In addition to the provision of shelters, basic household needs include access to safe and clean water for drinking and other household requirements, toilets, and community infrastructure including for education, health and transportation.
- Support for Sustainable Livelihoods.
Displacement forced many to lose their jobs and livelihoods and they will only attain a durable solution once families are able to maintain a secure income. It is necessary for the Government to introduce programs to enable returnees to restart their former livelihoods, or to receive training to take up new fields of employment. This is a particular challenge for women-headed households, persons disabled by the conflict, former combatants and youth who are now approaching adulthood. It is necessary for the Government to review existing programmes in order to devise projects that will address gaps and failings, for example to ensure that economic infrastructure for communities are strengthened including access to markets and resources such as irrigation water for farmers and jetties for fisherpersons. This requires the cooperation of other Ministries and Departments, such as Irrigation, Fisheries, and Agriculture.
In the design of economic policies at both the national and regional levels, including by the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, the economic and social impact of the conflict including displacement need to be acknowledged and addressed.
- Ensuring Justice, Reparations and Coexistence.
The Government needs to ensure that the displaced and displacement-affected have access to justice, which means, inter alia, being able to bring their complaints to the police (including to officers who are proficient in Tamil and to female police officers), to the courts, and to other grievance mechanisms, be provided with legal aid where this is needed and medical and psycho-social support where required. In addition, transitional justice issues must be addressed. As part of this effort the Government should set out a comprehensive policy for reparations relating to loss, including compensation for persons killed, missing or disabled, and for economic losses, ensuring recognition of the issue of displacement and its impact.
Eligibility for such reparations or compensation packages should include persons who worked in conflict-affected areas although they were not residents and therefore are not eligible for resettlement assistance packages. Given the challenges relating to tensions and hostility between and within communities, including at an ethnic level, measures to acknowledge these grievances and to create trust and coexistence should be designed. As a part of this effort, programs should be undertaken to sensitise government officials at the district and central levels on issues such as displacement and continuing problems for return and reclaiming of rights.
One legacy of the conflict that still has not been completely addressed is mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) that continue to threaten the safety and security of persons in the conflict-affected areas. According to the Sri Lankan Mine Action Strategy 2016-2020, the target is for Sri Lanka to be mine-impact free by 2020.
While significant areas have been cleared, there are still areas where de-mining is required , or which need to be resurveyed, in 10 districts of the Northern, Eastern and North-Central Provinces.
There is also a continuing need for Mine Risk Education, particularly because being mine-impact free does not rule out the possibility of there being residual risk. As the de-mining unit is under MoR it needs to ensure that funding is made available for the remaining work. There is an urgent need for Treasury and MoR to ensure clear budgetary allocations for the next four years so that the work can be completed.
Read the full report on line here or as a PDF here:NATIONAL POLICY ON DURABLE SOLUTIONS FOR CONFLICT -AFFECTED DISPLACEMENT April 7 3rd Draft