Practice Relating to Rule 132. Return of Displaced Persons
Section B. Measures to facilitate return and reintegration
In 2009, in a ministerial statement on Sri Lanka before the House of Representatives, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
Sri Lanka faces the tremendous task of resettling hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens. This process has started, but since the fighting stopped four months ago at least 250,000 people remain in camps for internally displaced people. Civilians in northern Sri Lanka have lived under difficult conditions for many years and suffered greatly, especially in the last months of the conflict. It is now vital to move quickly, more quickly than has been the case to this point, to create the conditions for them to rebuild their lives.
This financial year, 2009–10, Australia will provide more than $35 million in development assistance to Sri Lanka. Supporting resettlement is a major focus for the coming months. Yesterday I said publicly that recently I had approved $2 million to support the resettlement of displaced people in Sri Lanka. … This funding will include assistance for continuing the process of documenting internally displaced people to facilitate their return, their assistance with essential items, including food and water for travel and reintegration, and assistance to families hosting displaced people.
Australia welcomes the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to resettling over 80 per cent of civilians from camps for internally displaced people by the end of 2009, and looks forward to the resettlement of all civilians as soon as possible. Freedom of movement for the civilians in the north is essential. The start of the monsoon season this month has increased the urgency for voluntary resettlement and other solutions that provide freedom of movement. Australia’s call applies especially to children, the sick and the elderly, but it extends to all those citizens of Sri Lanka currently in the camps for internally displaced people.
[A] prerequisite for the revival of northern Sri Lanka is the de-mining of former conflict areas. It is the case that the demining challenge will affect the resettlement of displaced people from the camps. That is why in June, Australia provided over $1 million to non-government organisations for de-mining and why we responded in August to a further request by the government of Sri Lanka by providing a further $1 million through the International Organisation for Migration for de-mining efforts.
The voluntary resettlement process requires full access by international humanitarian agencies to areas of return and to information to ensure effective coordination. Australia has consistently called upon the Sri Lankan government to ensure that such access is afforded and information provided.
In 2009, in a response to a question without notice on Sri Lanka in the House of Representatives, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
I announced when I was there a further contribution by Australia of $11 million: $6 million to assist in de-mining to ensure that the areas where people are resettled to are free from the terrible blight of landmines; also $3 million to help through the United Nations with housing to resettle these people from displaced camps into accommodation; and, thirdly, $2 million worth of food through the World Food Program.
I very much made the point to the President and his ministers that, in ensuring this resettlement occurs, freedom of movement so far as those displaced people are concerned is absolutely essential.
In 2009, in a response to a question without notice on asylum seekers in the House of Representatives, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
[We] confirm our continued cooperation with the Sri Lankans to assist with their humanitarian and resettlement challenges, including providing … $5 million to support the resettlement of internally displaced persons and $2.3 million for demining the former conflict areas. This is particularly important given the heavy use of landmines in the area, which is of concern in the resettlement process, and given the number of landmines used in the civil war against the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam].
In 2010, in a ministerial statement on Sri Lanka before the House of Representatives, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
… Australia continues to advocate resettlement of all remaining displaced persons in safe and dignified conditions as soon as possible. …
In many cases resettlement areas have been badly affected by the conflict. There are impassable roads, destroyed houses and a lack of potable water. Infrastructure, including schools and health facilities, is damaged or non-existent. Large swathes of agricultural land are as yet unusable and tools to restart livelihoods are scarce. In addition, there is the ever-present danger of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Demining is an essential first step to allow people to return home and rebuild their lives. For this reason, Australia has already announced its commitment to provide up to $20 million for demining over the next five years to ensure that the northern part of Sri Lanka can be made safe for resettlement.