Refugee Sponsorship Training Program

Font resize

Sri Lanka

OVERVIEW of Sri Lanka | Humanitarian situation | Persecuted populations | Country of asylum information | Essential sources | Sri Lanka culture

OVERVIEW of Sri Lanka

Capital: Colombo
Area: 65,610 km²
Population: 20,222,240 (2006 estimate)
Language(s): Sinhala (official) – 74%, Tamil – 18%, English – 10%, others – 8%
Religion(s): Buddhist – 69.1%, Muslim – 7.6%, Hindu – 7.1%, Christian – 6.2%, unspecified – 10%
Ethnic Group(s): Sinhalese – 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors – 7.2%, Indian Tamil – 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil – 3.9%, others – 0.5%, unspecified – 10% [ accessed March 13, 2018]

Return to top

Humanitarian situation

Currently, humanitarian assistance remains a primary need in Sri Lanka. Organizations such as UNHCR have focused on providing assistance for community development as well as meeting humanitarian and protection-related needs for refugees. Key issues such as the separation of family members; lack of personal documentation (e.g. land deeds, birth, marriage and death certificates); displacement and rehabilitation procedures; and the need for livelihood support prevail. Despite stabilizing conditions there remains a strong military presence, particularly in the north. The level of infrastructure for returning refugees is inadequate.

UN Human Rights Council, Compilation on Sri Lanka – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 28 August 2017, A/HRC/WG.6/28/LKA/2, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

Return to top

Persecuted populations

  • Persons Suspected of Certain Links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
  • Certain Opposition Politicians and Political Activists
  • Certain Journalists and Other Media Professionals
  • Certain Human Rights Activists
  • Certain Witnesses of Human Rights Violations and Victims of Human Rights Violations Seeking Justice
  • Women in certain circumstances
  • Children in certain circumstances
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Individuals in certain circumstances

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Sri Lanka, 21 December 2012, HCR/EG/LKA/12/04, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

Return to top

Country of asylum information

A number of Sri Lankan refugees are hosted in India.

India is not a signatory to the refugee convention, nor does it have an existing national legal framework for refugee protection. According to the Foreigners Act 1946 and India’s Citizenship Act 1995, Sri Lankans entering without visas are illegal migrants, without exception for asylum seekers or refugees. However, the Indian government has granted protection to Sri Lankans recognized as refugees fleeing the violence in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, Sri Lankans are freely admitted into the country, unless it is determined by the Indian police that they are tied to the LTTE which is recognized as an illegal organization in India.

Sri Lankan refugees living in India are detained in refugee camps. Those living outside government camps are required to register with local police and visit the camp daily to register their attendance. Refugees are not permitted to work, however adults living in government camps receive a small monthly stipend. The government also provides basic medical care, education for school-age children and subsidized food. In spite of these accommodations, camp conditions are below par, with inadequate health and sanitary facilities.

With the end of the civil war and the improving security situation in Sri Lanka, a large number of refugees are returning home. UNHCR currently has a voluntary repatriation programme in which refugees can approach the nearest UNCHR office and request to repatriate. Approximately 4,000 Sri Lankan refugees have returned to Sri Lanka, the majority of whom were staying in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, India. Unfortunately due to restrictions on UNHCR access to refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of refugees wishing to return. The Sri Lankan government, with the permission of the government of India, carries out the replacement and issuance of travel documents in India. As a result, Sri Lankans in India can now easily obtain a Sri Lankan travel document from the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai. In any case, there is yet to be a formal process between India and Sri Lanka to facilitate the physical move of refugees, the transfer of personal bank accounts, and recognition of academic diplomas.

See, [accessed in March 13, 2018].

Return to top

Essential sources

UNHCR Canada Resettlement Levels 2018 and Global Resettlement Needs, available at; [accessed March 19, 2018].

Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sri Lanka: Treatment of Tamils in society and by authorities; the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), including relationship with the Tamil population (2014-February 2017), 17 March 2017, LKA105756.E, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sri Lanka: Surveillance, arrest and detention of Tamil citizens; recourse available to Tamil citizens (August 2011-January 2015), 4 February 2015, LKA105042.E, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Sri Lanka, 12 January 2017, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Sri Lanka: Journalists, media professionals and human rights activists, 11 July 2017, v 3.0, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Report of a Home Office Fact-Finding Mission. Sri Lanka: treatment of Tamils and people who have a real or perceived association with the former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 23 July 2016, available at: [accessed 13 March 2018].

Return to top

Sri Lanka culture [accessed March 13, 2018].

Return to top Return to Country Conditions Main Page