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No ID, no security the dilemma of Sri Lanka’s returnees

No ID, no security the dilemma of Sri Lanka’s returnees

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Jul 17, 2013
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06/01/2014

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 Thousands of returnees don't have IDs
 
COLOMBO, 17 July 2013 (IRIN) - Closeto 100,000 returnees in Sri Lanka’s north lack national identity cards (NICs),more than four years after the end of the country’s decades-longcivil war.
Many people cannot resume their lives as NICs are the passport toaccessing multiple services and were made mandatory for voting in 2006,”Suresh Premachandran, a member of parliament (MP) with the TamilNational Alliance, one of the largest national parties representing minority Tamils from the north, told IRIN.According to the United Nations, more than460,000
 
displaced persons havereturned to Northern Province - which is home to more than 1 millioninhabitants - since government forces declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland since 1983.In Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts alone, an estimated quarter of thedistricts’ 200,000-plus inhabitants are without national IDs.Without such documentation, many residents struggle to access publicservices such as health and education, and well as government assistanceprogrammes. They also face the risk of questioning and delays by police and securityofficials.
Not a priority
 
 
Under the law, NICs are compulsory for all Sri Lankans 16 years or older,and authorities may detain suspicious individuals who fail to show any formof legal identification - a legacy of the war.
Without an NIC, you are always at risk,” said Shereen Xavier, a north-based lawyer and executive director of the Home for Human Rights (HHR).“Without it, the impediments can be many.”Even to enter many government buildings, one must produce an NIC,people complain.But moving ahead on this issue is proving a challenge.Despite the identity cards’ importance, the government has yet to prioritizethe issue, with much of its effort focused instead on large-scaleinfrastructure and development projects in the north.Many returnees do not have the required documentation to apply foranNIC, and with no local offices for issuing NICs, applications can takeseveral months to process.
 The processing of papers can prove time-consuming,” ShanthiSachithanandan, chairperson of Viluthu, an organization promoting goodgovernance in the north, explained.
Temporary IDs
 
After the war, the government was keen to have its voter lists updated.When these lists were updated ahead of presidential and local polls in 2010and 2012, temporary IDs were issued to over 40,000 people to allow themto vote, a process that continues today.At that time, around 90,000 people from the north failed to indicate theirNIC number, Deputy Elections Commissioner M.M. Mohammad confirmed.
 Temporary IDs were issued to many, especially to facilitate theirparticipation in the presidential and local government elections that wereheld,” he said.But many returnees say such IDs are looked down upon. Those holdingtemporary ID have difficulty accessing government services and aresometimes treated with suspicion by officials, they say.Now, with the first provincial council election in Sri Lanka’s former war zone

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