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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Michael Foster): I would like to update the House on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. Six months ago the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka created almost 280,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). I visited Sri Lanka in early October and advocated freedom of movement for the IDP population who continue to be held in closed camps. At the time of my visit, this population numbered almost 253,000 people. I would like to reiterate that meeting the humanitarian needs of the IDPs remains the most immediate priority for the UK Government.
I welcome the recent announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka of their intention that all IDPs will have total freedom of movement from 1 December in the camps in Sri Lanka. It will be important that humanitarian agencies have access to fully meet the needs of the IDPs who choose to remain in the camps until they can return to their homes or go to host families. Approximately 130,000 IDPs still remain in these camps. Conditions
remain basic but have improved since the separate visits to Sri Lanka earlier this year by the Foreign Secretary, a cross-party group of MPs led by Des Browne as well as my own previous visits in April and October. The monsoon has now started and it is raining heavily. Many of the temporary shelters are deteriorating and there is a risk that flooding will occur. With freedom of movement then it would be much more acceptable for humanitarian agencies to be able to improve conditions in the camps and support any moves to make them genuine welfare villages.
I also join with the UN to welcome the recent progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka over the last four weeks in returning the IDPs from the closed camps in Vavuniya to their home areas. As of 20 November, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 132,000 IDPs have now either returned to their home areas or have been released to institutions or host families elsewhere. The majority of those returning to their homes have been to Jaffna. Returns are now starting to other areas in the Vanni such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.
However, I also have concerns. The pace of returns is increasingly limited by the challenge of ensuring that areas are free from land mines and unexploded ordnance. I am pleased that we are helping to meet this challenge by funding the work of two British demining NGOs-the HALO Trust and Mine Action Group-to help make areas safe again. A further concern is that not all returnees enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement outside of their immediate home areas. Moreover, in some areas where the IDPs have been able to return home, humanitarian access for agencies to assist them is still restricted. This is making it unnecessarily hard to meet the basic needs of returning IDPs. I urge the Government of Sri Lanka to co-operate fully with all concerned humanitarian agencies so that they can undertake their usual assistance and protection activities, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
DFID continues to support the relief effort to Sri Lanka as the situation on the ground allows. Since September 2008, we have committed £12.5 million. Last week I approved a further £1 million from this budget to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to support the safe and dignified return of IDPs to their home areas. This grant will help provide transport, emergency shelters, temporary health clinics, immediate access to high quality water and sanitation facilities and livelihoods support for the returning IDP population. It will also allow IOM to extend their existing IDP registration programme to all IDPs. This registration programme was originally supported by DFID in April and is an essential part of enabling returning IDPs to access basic services.
We have always made it clear that the IDP camps should not be anything other than temporary in nature. During my recent visit, I confirmed that once the critical monsoon season is over DFID will only fund-life-saving emergency interventions in the existing closed camps. The focus of our funding will shift further towards early recovery activities in the area of demining, support to the returns process and livelihood recovery. Once again, I would like to reassure the House that all DFID funding is provided directly to neutral and impartial international agencies. Some £2.87 million remains to be committed as the situation on the ground allows.
Looking forward, we recognise the progress that the Government of Sri Lanka have made towards their own original target of returning 80 per cent. of the IDPs to their areas of origin by the end of the year. After 26 years of intermittent conflict, there remains an additional 214,000 long-term displaced people to consider who may now also wish to return to their home areas. It is important that the Government of Sri Lanka addresses the needs of all IDPs.
Our other priority since the end of the conflict has been to urge the Government to make a concerted effort to secure lasting peace by working for genuine reconciliation between Sri Lanka's communities. Our view remains that this can only be achieved through a fully inclusive political settlement that addresses the legitimate grievance and aspirations of all communities.
The British Government continue to engage fully with the Government of Sri Lanka as well as international and multilateral partners. The Foreign Secretary discussed these issues with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister when they last spoke on 4 November. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka regularly raises our concerns with senior members of the Sri Lankan Government. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sir John Holmes, visited Sri Lanka on 17 and 19 November and concluded that returns must be both voluntary and informed. He also welcomed the Government of Sri Lanka's assurance regarding their commitment to ensuring full freedom of movement for IDPs. I spoke to Sir John Holmes yesterday about the humanitarian situation going forwards and the international response, and reiterated the UK priority of freedom of movement for the IDP population. I also welcomed the progress that has been made to date by the Government of Sri Lanka in returning the IDPs from the camps to their homes.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): As a consequence of budgetary transfers associated with the Winter Supplementary Estimates, the Department for International Development's total departmental expenditure limit will be reduced by £27,786,000 from £6,785,560,000 to £6,757,774,000. Within the total DEL change, the impact on Resource and Capital is set out in the following table:
|(*) The total of 'Administration budget' and 'Near-cash in Resource DEL 'figures may well he greater than total resource DEL, due to the definitions overlapping.|
(**) Depreciation, which forms part of the resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL, since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of these assets would lead to double counting.
£500,000 transferred to DFID from the Ministry of Defence in relation to Stabilisation Unit.
£500,000 transferred to DFID from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to Stabilisation Unit.
£6,729,000 transferred to DFID from the Ministry of Defence in relation to Conflict Prevention Pool.
£6,000,000 transferred from DFID to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to the Returns and Reintegration Fund.
£800,000 transferred from DFID to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in relation to London 2012 International Inspiration.
£11,500,000 transferred from DFID to Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to Conflict Prevention in Afghanistan.
£15,465,000 transferred from DFID to Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to Conflict Prevention Pool.
£1,500,000 transferred from DFID to Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to Conflict Prevention in Sri Lanka.
£250,000 transferred from DFID to Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to refurbishment of shared Delhi office.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Northern Ireland Court Service (NICS) and The National Archives (TNA) total departmental expenditure limit (DEL) will be increased as follows:
Total DEL for MoJ (RfRl, 2 and 3) is increased by £214,550,000 from £9,614,212,000 to £9,828,762,000 and the administration budget has increased by £200,000 from £435,720,000 to £435,920,000.
Total DEL for the NICS has increased by £20,000,000 from £127,556,000 to £147,556,000.
Total DEL for the TNA has remained unchanged.
|(*)The total of 'administration budget' and 'near-cash in Resource DEL' figures may well be greater than total Resource DEL, due to the definitions overlapping.|
|(**)Capital DEL includes items treated as resource in Estimates and accounts but which are treated as Capital DEL in budgets.|
(***)Depreciation, which forms part of Resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since Capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.
An increase in Resource DEL of £2,830,000 in relation to offender learning, transfer of resources relating to skills costs of additional prison capacity from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
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