Close to 500,000 Sri Lankans were internally displaced at the end of 2003, although estimates range between 363,000-600,000. Around 92,000 were in government run welfare centers. Almost 100,000 Sri Lankans were refugees in India. Most Sri Lankan refugees and displaced persons were Hindu Tamils, although thousands of Muslims and some Buddhist Sinhalese were also displaced.

Over 5,000 persons returned from India, and some 76,700 internally displaced persons returned to their homes in 2003.

In 2003, nearly 5,500 Sri Lankans applied for asylum elsewhere, including more than 1,700 in France and 1,200 in Canada.

Sri Lanka hosted 36 refugees and asylum seekers at year's end. These included 30 persons recognized as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), mostly from Iraq (14) and Afghanistan (12), and 6 whose claims were pending. Three persons voluntarily returned to Afghanistan during the year.

The Peace Process

(See South Asia Regional Summary.) In May, inter-communal violence displaced some 35,000 in eastern Trincomalees district, and hundred of others became internally displaced because of violence in other districts at the end of the year.

Indian Tamils

In October the government agreed to grant citizenship to some 168,000 Tamils descended from Indian laborers brought to Sri Lanka by British rulers in the 18th century, many of whom had been stateless, barred from owning property and from working for the government, and lacking identification documents. Around 84,100 of those the government granted citizenship had Indian passports, but had been unable to return to India since 1983 due to fighting between the LTTE and the government.


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