Nov 07 (Xinhua) COLOMBO- The United Nations (UN) has come forward to address land issues faced by Sri Lanka's war displaced people who have been resettled, a UN agency in Colombo said on Wednesday.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said fresh challenges have emerged as people continue to return home and it is working with local authorities and partners to support sustainable returns by addressing some of the problems, including housing, land and property.
Following the end of a 30 year war between the military and the Tamil Tiger rebels, thousands of displaced people were resettled and the final batch was moved out of a war displacement camp in the north last month.
However UNHCR said with local government services virtually non- existent at the time of return, the returnees were unable to obtain copies of documents or could not afford to do so. That meant many people could not prove that they owned their land.
"Land documentation is critical for these families to restart their lives and reintegrate in their villages," said Michael Zwack, UNHCR's representative in Sri Lanka.
"Without land deeds, returnee families cannot obtain the clearance to rebuild their homes or prove ownership in order to access housing assistance. Documents are also essential for families to claim compensation for private land that has been used for state purposes."
To help tackle this thorny problem, the UN refugee agency has provided computers, photocopiers, scanners and fax machines to 45 local government offices dealing with land documentation and records in the Mannar, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts. These will allow officials to process land claims and issue fresh documentation.
"The responsibility of meeting land and civil documentation needs generally lies with the Registrar General's Department. These functions are decentralized to the local government offices and the land registries in the districts," explained Zwack. "So while this equipment is provided primarily to help streamline the application process for land documentation, it also helps streamline the general functions and increase the efficiency of the local government offices."
UNHCR, through local partner organizations, is also helping in the demarcation process, so that returnees can cordon off their area and build protective fences.